Tag Archives: folk music

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine – The Imperial Hotel – 19/08/17

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

The better part of a decade ago I remember heading down to The Imperial at Rocquaine to see one of the island’s top pop-rock bands of the time trying something a bit different.

That band were The Nelkons and what they were doing was playing an acoustic set in the corner of their local pub. While they were still going by their old name then this was to be one of the first outings for the band now known as The Space Pirates of Rocquaine.

Last Saturday night, after a lengthy absence and with a slightly different line up, the folk rockers returned to their spiritual home to do what they do best, play high energy, fun, folk rock to an enthusiastic audience.

Before the full band took to the ‘stage’ a few members warmed up the crowd with some other songs, starting with founder member and guitarist/vocalist Guppy.

Tim Corbett and Mark Guppy

Tim Corbett and Mark Guppy

Armed with a new Telecaster he began with some more folky numbers, including a few often played with the full band, before gradually dialling up the crunch and adding a bit of punk spirit and rock ‘n’ roll to proceedings with a Stranglers cover and some more originals. 

The Pirates mandolin/ukulele/guitar player Tim Corbett then brought things back in a more indie-folk direction that sounded great but, as it went on, got a little lost in the increasing hubbub in the pub caused by the sudden arrival of a rather boisterous bus party.

After a short break to get everyone else on stage The Space Pirates of Rocquaine then set off.

Taking the band out of the often overly polite and family friendly environments they often play instantly seemed to make them more relaxed on stage and up for a more fun performance.

Lisa Vidamour and Rachael Cumberland-Dodd

The Space Pirates’ Lisa with guest Rachael

While they took a few songs to get up to speed once they did they were on fine form for the best part of the next hour and a half. The band were relaxed and fun throughout but they proved, time and again, that with that they can be one do the tightest bands around, particularly on their more well-known songs like Sarnia Cherie, Canon Des Iles or the anthemic sounding I Fly.

With the new line up featuring Nick Dodd on electric guitar in place of Jess Nash’s fiddle a few of their more rock ‘n’ roll songs have taken on a new life, this was particularly demonstrated on Beast of the Coudre which took on a whole new dimension.

As the set went on songs were dedicated to friends and family, including a rousing rendition of Foo Fighters’ My Hero and the band were joined by several ‘guests’ from the audience reaching something of a climax with the always emotional Coming Home before the slightly too am dram dance along to Witch of the Longfrie brought a close to proceedings.

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine and friends

The Space Pirates and friends

While on paper a gig like this, on the floor in the corner of a small pub, could be beset by technical issues, for a band like The Space Pirates, it’s clear that this is where they thrive and are capable of delivering their absolute best combining some great singalong folky pop rock with a relaxed performance and an over-riding sense of fun.

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Burg And The Back Porch Band & The Electric Shakes

Burg & The Back Porch Band and The Electric Shakes album coversIn July 2017 two albums of rather different styles were released by Burg & The Back Porch Band and The Electric Shakes.

While one is a roots and Americana live album and the other a powerful example of heavy garage rock ‘n’ roll what links them is their frontman, Burg aka Steve Lynch.

Originally from Guernsey and now based in Bournemouth the prolific Mr Lynch also recently played both Chaos 13 and the Sark Folk Festival.

My review of Burg & The Back Porch Band Live At The Anvil and The Electric Shakes’ Electrohypnosis was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 22nd July, you can read it below:

Burg and The Electric Shakes album review - 22/07/17

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Hattie Briggs, Buff Hudd and Gregory Harrison (and a little Pirating at the Castle) – The Fermain Tavern – 14/07/17

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine at Castle Cornet

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine at Castle Cornet

Every summer Castle Cornet, the medieval castle that stands at the entrance of Guernsey’s harbour, is thrown open on Friday evenings for the Castle Nights events featuring a selection of live music in different areas of the fortification. Before heading up to The Fermain Tavern this evening, I went to the castle to catch The Space Pirates of Rocquaine.

Its been a while since I’ve seen The Space Pirates and they’ve had a bit of a shake up in that time with fiddle player Jess Nash moving into a more part-time capacity (though she did sing a couple of songs tonight) and Nick Dodd joining to add some subtle electric guitar to the mix. Despite this, the general feel of the band’s high energy, fun, rock infused folk remains unchanged and was on fine display.

While the older more well-known songs had a large number of the audience singing along and were the backbone of the set three new songs were included. While the first got a bit lost thanks to sounding like it would need a big sound with lots of harmonies and the likes to be totally effective, the other two continue the band’s style perfectly.

Nick Dodd and Tim Corbett of The Space Pirates of Rocquaine at Castle Cornet

Nick Dodd and Tim Corbett

One, written by mandolin and guitar player Tim Corbett brought a slight country and indie tone while Guppy’s, SS Briseis, was a rabble rousing drinking song, suitable given its subject famously sank with a load of Algerian wine off the island’s coast.

Despite the line up change the band, if anything, felt more focussed and tighter than some past performances and Nick’s guitar added a nice country twang and a slightly different dynamic in places. A few technical issues didn’t seem to faze them and they left the crowd, packed into the castle’s middle ward, calling for more.

You can see a few more of my photos of their set here

After their set I made a swift move up to The Fermain Tavern where a new visitor to the island was playing, alongside a couple of more familiar faces.

Gregory Harrison

Gregory Harrison

Gregory Harrison started the night off in solo mode, without either longtime bass player Nathan or recently added drummer Peter. This provided an interesting contrast to his more recent outings and shone more of a light on his guitar playing and his deeply lovelorn lyrics.

While his performances used to sometimes feel a little mannered it seems his time back in a full band (now he’s in The Recks) has made him more relaxed on stage, giving a new honesty and openness to his songs adding a real passion to his performance along with his deep and rich vocals.

Also flying totally solo tonight was Buffalo Huddleston frontman Buff Hudd. With that in mind he had chosen to expand his sound with a stomp box at one foot and tambourine at the other, along with his didgeridoo and guitar.

Buff Hudd

Buff Hudd

With the audience more focussed and quiet than at many of his gigs (this couldn’t be much more different from his recent outing in The Peace Tent for example) he chose to add an even more intricate side to his playing, or maybe it just came across as more, really showing off his unique skills.

I Don’t Care What You Think About Me added a nice light-hearted touch mid set while Mono-Limb-Tastic did its usual job of wowing the crowd with its ‘one-handed’ style making for a stand out performance for Buff Hudd.

While she had never visited the island before and, as such only drew a small audience, it was clear that Hattie Briggs came highly recommended as a number arriving commented that friends and family in the UK had sung her praises to them.

As soon as she began her performance (backed for a majority of the set by Gregory Harrison on guitar and violin) it was clear why.

Hattie’s songs have a slightly melancholy feel spanning the area between pop, folk and the singer-songwriter movement, with tales of lost love and love never found, amongst other subjects.

Hattie Briggs

Hattie Briggs

What really stood out though was her voice. While there are many good female voices of a similar style doing the rounds something about Briggs went beyond that, leading to more than one to comment that, if we hadn’t known better, she could have almost sounded like a very well record CD. This captivated the audience in a way rarely seen at the Tav, bringing almost all to a focussed silence.

While, for me, it did get a little musically same-y as the set went on that is a personal taste criticism and I seemed to be alone in this feeling.

A couple of well-chosen versions of songs previously done by Eva Cassidy later in the set brought the performance to a rousing close before the audience called Briggs back (in a slightly subdued way) for a final rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah that had most of the room singing along and ended the night on a definite high and I would hope if Hattie makes a return to the island more venture out to hear her as I know a large number of people would enjoy her music and missed out.

You can see my photos of the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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Blue Mountains – Hummingbird EP

Blue Mountains - HummingbirdAt the recent Sark Folk Festival Guernsey based folk band Blue Mountains release the follow-up to their Refusing To Die album, the four track EP Hummingbird.

Recorded at Stretchy Studios in Guernsey the EP marks a development for the band expanding to a four piece from their original duo line up and being made up predominantly of original songs rather than the traditional material heard on their debut.

My review of the EP was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 15th July 2017.

Blue Mountains - Hummingbird review scan - 15/07/17

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Guernsey Gigs Acoustic Night #2 – The Fermain Tavern – 06/07/17

The Gregory Harrison Trio at The Fermain Tavern

The Gregory Harrison Trio

With the Sark Folk Festival a recent memory for some, Guernsey Gigs took the chance to stage their second acoustic night at The Fermain Tavern as a kind of wind down event featuring a few of the artists who had played the festival the prior weekend.

Guernsey folk scene stalwart Phil Capper was first up and did exactly what has made his formidable reputation over the years, playing a set of songs mixing his own material with versions of traditional folk and ‘folk revival’ songs.

Something of what I would see as a classic ‘folk club’ style performer Phil may not always be the most precise of players but he tells the stories of the songs excellently through both his vocals and his guitar playing and he finds the spirit in the songs he chooses with an impressive voice and musicality.

Phil Capper at The Fermain Tavern

Phil Capper

For me he’s at his best in the more energetic songs and his final number, I Will Go, was one of these and got the small but attentive audience singing along to the rousing chorus.

Working for both the Guernsey Museum and Guernsey Language Commission, James Dumbelton has taken the opportunity to learn as much as he can about the island’s own folk music and shared some of that with us here.

Armed with two sets of pipes, a mandolin and a fiddle (not all at once) he took the audience on a journey through some of the historical music of Cornwall and Normandy that may have given some identity to Guernsey’s own music and played a few Guernsey French songs as well.

I don’t really remember hearing Guernésiais sung before and it was great as I’m very accustomed to hearing it spoken and, even if his accent seemed a little soft compared to what I’m used to, it opened up the language in a new way.

James Dumbelton at The Fermain Tavern

James Dumbelton

Along with that he highlighted the links between Norman and Norsemen with his music and was energetic and engaging in a way I’ve not often seen from a solo folk music performer – getting the audience to sing along in Guernsey French was a particularly impressive moment.

Gregory Harrison has been playing for several years around Guernsey (and before that further afield as well) and in that time added bass player Nathan to his line up. Now he’s added a drummer, front man of Burning At Both Ends and WaterColour Matchbox amongst other things, Peter Mitchell, to complete a three-piece band, imaginatively going by the name The Gregory Harrison Trio.

While Greg’s music has always been enjoyable away from the bands he’s in, the addition of a more complete backing band, including backing vocals, does give something of the feel closer to his recordings giving many of the songs a new vitality and depth, and allows Greg a little more space to perform – something he’s shown he’s more than capable of with The Recks.

Gregory Harrison Trio at The Fermain Tavern

Gregory Harrison Trio

In that regard this set felt far more relaxed (though according to the singer this wasn’t so much the case at their debut in Sark) leading to a couple of highlights in an otherwise very strong outing.

Low was particularly epic with a depth and power that just kept growing while their last song grew into something huge that had the audience clapping along before they were called back for an encore of the lead single from Greg’s self-titled EP, Demons, that topped it all to close the night on a high.

With a promise of more acoustic nights in the future, along with other shows, Guernsey Gigs are trying to expand things in the island’s music scene in a way not seen in a few years and, on the strength of this and past shows, they are starting out strong.

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

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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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Guernsey Gigs Folk Americana Night – The Fermain Tavern – 25/03/17

Great North and Will Wood

Great North and Will Wood

Following their inaugural Jam Night event the Guernsey Gigs guys were at it again on Saturday 25th March with a night of international playing folk americana style songs at The Fermain Tavern.

Guernsey’s Gregory Harrison was behind the event and opened the show with Chris Callahan from Nashville, Great North from New Zealand and Will Wood also from New Zealand but via Berlin.

My review of the show was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 1st April 2017 (you can read it below) and you can see my photos from it on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Folk Americana night review scan 01-04-17

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The Crowman – Ladies And Gentlemen… The Crowband

The Crowman - Ladies and Gentlemen The Crowband CD coverThe last few years has seen Mark Le Gallez, the man who fronted The Risk in the 1980s, The Sacred Hearts in the 1990s and Thee Jenerators since the 2000s (amongst other bands), find a new angle on his music in the form of steampunk-folk alter-ego The Crowman.

This has led to two previous albums, Songs From The Three Eyed Crow and The Resurrection Of Blind Jack Lazarus, as well as highlights around Guernsey, at several Sark Folk Festivals and steampunk events in the UK.

Now his third album, as the title suggests introduces us to ‘The Crowband’ filling out his lo-fi sound with a range of extra instrumentation.

My review of the album was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 25th March and you can read it below:

Crowman album review 25/03/17

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Ginger Wildheart – Ghost In The Tanglewood

Ginger Wildheart

Ginger Wildheart

Having heard his brief journeys into the world of folk and country music in the past with the likes of Georgie In Wonderland and Sky Chaser High (and, somewhat differently, the alter-ego album World of Filth) I was intrigued what a complete album in this genre from Ginger Wildheart might sound like. Ghost In The Tanglewood then (released via Pledgemusic) had me interested from the off and, for the most part, it is one of the most consistent and enjoyable of Ginger’s albums in sometime.

Daylight Hotel picks things up in many ways where recent single Fuck You Brain left off but obviously in a rather different style and the opening pair of tracks feel very much like acoustic versions of standard Ginger tracks, but with added folk and country-style instrumentation.

From there though it really delves into the kind of folk of the north of England that make it feel something like a cousin of the music being made by O’Hooley & Tidow, with Golden Tears being a particular folky highlight.

Throughout the sounds on the album are impressive combining, to various degrees, folk, country and Ginger’s usual pop-rock sensibilities with big hooks and a kind of vocal style that almost gives it a family band feel with some great harmony work and a real honesty only helped by Ginger’s natural accent coming to the fore even more than on past releases (taking what he started on Valor Del Corazon to a natural conclusion).

Ghost In The Tanglewood - Ginger Wildheart coverPhantom Memories takes things in a sonically darker direction and gives us the album’s title, before Remains continues the themes of living with depression that run through the album in one of the most honest and real ways I’ve heard. In general Ginger’s writing here does this very well not overdramatising or underplaying anything but making it feel real with highs, lows and the ‘mundane’ in-betweens all getting included like few others manage.

My Old Friend The Blues (a cover of a Steve Earle song) gives the record its most totally country moment before it closes on possibly the most tender song in Ginger’s back catalogue, Don’t Say Goodbye, with the songwriter addressing his young son about having to be away on the road (or elsewhere), but without a lot of the cliché that it probably sounds like that might have.

While the song writing and arrangements on Ghost In The Tanglewood don’t have the breadth and expanse of most of Ginger’s other solo material in many ways this is what makes it. These are more simple songs (though still excellently produced and arranged) and with that are more easily digestible and allow the honesty and warmth of Ginger to shine through which, in the worlds of folk and country, are an important aspect.

While the question of genre is one that has been raised, not least by the artist himself, after a couple of listens this drifts away as, while it undeniably mixes things up as Ginger is renowned for, what it leaves is the fact that this is a great album. It might be something of an aside to the likes of 555% and Albion, rather like the Mutation and Hey!Hello! records, but if this is the direction Ginger chose to take for his music going forward, based on this, I certainly wouldn’t be complaining.

I always like to include a video with my album reviews but there isn’t one yet for Ghost In The Tanglewood so here is one from Ginger’s Year Of The Fanclub that gives an idea of him in a more country/folk kind of mode:

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Nessi Gomes – Diamonds and Demons

Nessi Gomes - Diamonds & Demons album artHaving first made her presence known playing highly regarded sets of acoustic cover versions around Guernsey over the last decade, 2016 saw Nessi Gomes refocus her attention to her own music and, following a wildly successful crowd funding campaign through IndieGoGo, release her first collection of original music, Diamonds & Demons.

While Gomes’ live performances have generally focussed on her solo vocal and guitar work, such as in her mesmerising set at the 2016 Sark Folk Festival, on record that sound is expanded with a host of guest musicians and the work of producer and arranger Duncan Bridgeman.

This expansion gives the album a strangely electronic feel, combined with a development of the folk and world elements of Gomes’ original writing. We are introduced to this through the oddly hypnotic Into The Earth that drifts its way from the speakers to become firmly lodged in the listeners head.

From there the record meanders from the slightly more commercial likes of These Walls through songs in Gomes’ native Portuguese to moments reminiscent of Sigur Ros’ vast soundscapes.

Nessi Gomes at Sark Folk Festival

Nessi Gomes at Sark Folk Festival

While all the production serves to develop the songs very well the strongest feature of the whole album remains the core of Gomes’ singing and playing. This has something of the style of many current female vocalists but Gomes adds to that an extra soulfulness combined with a strong streak of thoughtfulness and meaning in the lyrics all of which is captured here.

The highlight of all of this is the title track, Diamonds & Demons, that combines everything that makes the album what it is with the addition of Mercury Music Prize nominee Sam Lee on extra vocals, contrasting and complimenting Gomes’ voice excellently.

Though it is a more developed sound than I’ve heard from Nessi Gomes in the past what Diamonds & Demons does as an album is capture the essence of her work and develop it to create something that washes over the listener in the same way as her live performances, but with many extras that could only come from the studio all in a highly enjoyable package.

This review was also posted in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 14th January 2017:

Nessi Gomes - Diamonds and Demons review scan

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