Tag Archives: blues

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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The Graveltones, SugarSlam, Tadhg Daly and Chloe Le Page – The Fermain Tavern – 13/11/15

The Graveltones

The Graveltones

Friday 13th November 2015 will go down in history as a tragic day, and one that hit home to the international music community, following events at the Bataclan in Paris (and elsewhere around the city).

While that was happening though the music continued, and will continue, in many places and one such was The Fermain Tavern where (an admittedly slightly small) crowd had gathered to catch garage-blues two-piece The Graveltones along with Guernsey’s SugarSlam and Chloe Le Page and Jersey boys Tadhg Daly.

Chloe was first on stage with a set of acoustic pop with a bit of blues, a bit of country and a bit of rock thrown in to give it a nice edge. Following time gigging in the UK in recent months Chloe’s performance here had grown hugely in confidence with a more measured delivery allowing the real feeling to come through in her original songs – particularly Oblivion and Heartbreaker.

Chloe Le Page

Chloe Le Page

With a few covers to end some of her previous nerves clearly came back but she carried an acoustic take on AC/DC’s Highway To Hell well to finish Chloe delivered probably the best performance I’ve seen from her yet that was very well received by the audience.

After a slightly lengthy break (it transpired the frontman had misplaced his capo) Tadhg Daly and his band took to the stage. Being relatively regular visitors to the island each show has seen them develop and build their sound from a relaxed kind of acoustic driven alternative rock to, now, something much more grunge influenced. Within that here they still retained the relaxed and ‘loose’ personality they’ve always had, just with a much louder backing with Tadhg now armed with a Telecaster rather than an acoustic.

Tadhg Daly

Tadhg Daly

During the songs themselves though the band were musically tight and Tadhg displayed some great impassioned delivery of his vocals as well as really working his guitar while both he and guitarist Zach Pygott rode waves of feedback to create a kind of dark summer night grunge pop.

With a small audience who were largely new to the band, they went down well even if the crowd were largely happy to be curious observers rather than invested interactors, which at points seemed to frustrate Daly. But none the less it was a good set even if the loud sounds did lack a certain edge they seemed to be calling out for.

Following what all accounts suggest was a great return on Halloween, SugarSlam were back and loud here. Though the audience remained fairly low energy the band did their best with the atmosphere in the room with frontman Plumb really putting on a great show regardless as Brett Stewart’s manic drums powered things forward.

SugarSlam

SugarSlam

With a lot of new material, alongside songs from both their previous albums (Crank was a particular highlight for me), SugarSlam showed they aren’t resting on their previous work and are continually moving forward and appeared determined about that and just as full of piss and vinegar as ever.

Ending their set with Motorhead’s Ace of Spades, dedicated to the late Philthy Animal Taylor, SugarSlam played a set of grungey power pop designed to tear the house down, though they maybe only cracked the walls and smashed the windows tonight.

It was clear as soon as The Graveltones took to the stage that they were who everyone had come out to see as the dancefloor area was soon busy. Having gained a reputation in the Channel Islands following a couple of appearances at Jersey Live this was my first chance to catch them and, from the start, they came across like the bastard offspring of Heave and The Black Keys delivering sweaty, loud, energetic, glitchy, blues driven rock ‘n’ roll.

Both members of the band brought an unorthodox style to their performance. Jimmy O was seemingly one with his guitar as he writhed his body back and forth across the stage and howled into the mic. Meanwhile Mikey Sorbello thundered on the drums with an amazingly deft touch for such a huge sound and all delivered with a contrasting sense of serene contentment.

The Graveltones

The Graveltones

The first half of the set was all loud, over driven, blues rock that really connected with the audience who, though not up for moving around a lot, were clearly really into it, as the songs flowed one into the other like some kind of spiky disjointed yet perfectly formed stream of sonically abused consciousness.

For a time things took on a more boogie rock ‘n’ roll flavour before returning to the blues but, by this point, I have to admit my interest began to wane somewhat. The Graveltones may be the perfect band for a half hour festival set or in a packed and sweaty club, but tonight it just felt like they went on a little too long and as their set past the hour mark I began to wonder if they were nothing more than a fairly standard blues band with a relatively flimsy gimmick…

The Graveltones

Despite that their performance really couldn’t be faulted and in light of other events taking place as they blasted their music forth from guitars and amps and speakers and drums the duo summed up something of the strength, power and vitality of live music that must be celebrated and experienced now more than ever.

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The Animals & Friends and Robert J Hunter – The Fermain Tavern – 18/07/15

The Animals and Friends

The Animals and Friends

Known for the likes of House Of The Rising Sun and We Gotta Get Out Of This Place The Animals are arguably, after The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, one of the biggest British bands of the 1960s who formed part of what was dubbed ‘The British Invasion’.

On Saturday 18th July 2015 one of the current versions of the band, The Animals & Friends, featuring original drummer John Steel, played at The Fermain Tavern in Guernsey with support coming from upcoming ‘dirty blues’ trip The Robert J. Hunter Band who, though now based in London, have their roots in the islands.

My review of the show was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 25th July, which you can read below, and you can see my photos of the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

The Animals and Robert J Hunter review scan - 25:07:15

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