Tag Archives: folk

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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Guernsey Literary Festival presents The Recks, Heidi Joubert and Harry Baker – The Fermain Tavern – 13/05/17

The Recks

The Recks

Every year the Guernsey Literary Festival sets aside a night of its week-long event to combine music and poetry in the live environment of The Fermain Tavern. In the past this has welcomed the likes of John Cooper Clarke, Linton Kwesi Johnston, Attila The Stockbroker and Ruts DC and this year, in a slight twist, it featured world poetry slam champion Harry Baker, jazz percussion YouTube sensation Heidi Joubert and our own schizophrenic indie folksters, The Recks.

With the venue already busy early on Heidi Joubert took to the stage with her band for a soundcheck that, it transpired, had been delayed by the artists being unable to find the venue during the afternoon (and seemingly the festival organisers unable to give them suitable directions or chaperone them accordingly), so this set things off in an odd way and, seemingly, reduced the length of Baker’s performance as well.

Harry Baker

Harry Baker

This was doubly a shame as, for the five or six poems we were treated to, Baker was excellent. From the surreal flight of fancy Dinosaur Love to a poem about the love between a pair of prime numbers, to his tongue twisting, poetry slam winning, piece of verse centred on the letter P, Baker was one of the most entertaining and engaging performers I’ve witnessed, particularly when you consider he came armed with nothing but his voice and his words.

With a largely subtle performance side setting off his word play, he was a delight and, while I didn’t quite get the parody aspect of his Ed Sheeran reworking, it rounded off his set with a barrage of excellent puns turning a Sheeran love song into something I don’t doubt is far more entertaining and endearing than the original – I just wish there’d been time for more.

After a brief break The Heidi Joubert Trio returned to the stage and proceeded to stumble and dawdle their way through a set of easy listening, Latin style, jazz – interspersed with much talking to the sound man and trying to convince the audience to at once ‘shake it’ and, later on, be quiet!

A little research after the show seems to indicate that much of Joubert’s fame stems from a video of her busking on a train going viral on Facebook and she wasn’t shy in telling us about that during the set either, but what may work in a short online clip failed to remain interesting for the better part of an hour.

Heidi Joubert

Heidi Joubert

Rather than a collection of songs what we experienced felt like a disorganised jam of a set and, while all three were clearly very good players, it didn’t come together to make anything approaching an enjoyable whole and mostly amounted to a lot of other people’s riffs and lyrics forced into jammed out grooves and delivered with a sense of knowing arrogance that was ultimately hugely frustrating.

After that something needed to happen and, thankfully, The Recks delivered.

With something more of an energetic attitude than I have seen from them in a long time they launched into their set (a very similar line up of songs to that heard on Liberation Day) at breakneck pace and never looked back.

All five members of the band seemed intent on making their mark and, while Richey Powers was just the frontman we’ve come to expect, it was Gregory Harrison who really seemed to up his game revealing an intensity previously only hinted at and perfectly fitting his place in the band.

Gregory Harrison of The Recks

Gregory Harrison of The Recks

With next single In The Garden taking on something of a new spirit and the twisted disco of new song She Ain’t No Revelator providing a couple of highlights the performance reached its climax in three-part encore ending on a genuinely deranged Papa Leworthy that was as heavy and dirgey as this band could ever muster.

It’s just a shame many who’d come along early missed the genuine highlight of the night by leaving early and I’m not sure I can put into words how disappointing it was (not to mention disrespectful) that a majority of the events organisers also seemed to have vanished well before their own event was over, but none-the-less The Recks continued their current run of great shows as they head towards the height of summer festival season.

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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Clameur De Haro and The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers – The Golden Lion – 23/12/16

Clameur De Haro at The Golden Lion

Clameur De Haro

As the offices closed up for Christmas The Golden Lion in St Peter Port was packed on Friday 23rd December 2016, Christmas Eve-Eve, and with many having already been in the pub for several hours it was down to Clameur De Haro and The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers to provide the entertainment.

‘The Clams’ started things off downstairs with the crowd already packed up to the front as they launched into their set. Mixing their own songs with covers of rock classics and some festive fare, all in their own ‘sort-of-bluegrass’ style, the audience were into it from the start.

Being right at the front I could hear things perfectly though, given the layout of the pub and the wall of people going about half way down the bar, it was hard to tell how far back the music penetrated but that didn’t matter as we were all having a great time at the front with the band being their usual chatty and relaxed selves.

Clameur De Haro (and Mike from Blue Mountains)

Mike from Blue Mountains gets up close to Clameur De Haro

Christmas covers invoked mass singalongs but it was also great to hear not only the other covers but also the band’s original songs being sung back at them which helped increase the party atmosphere even further.

As the first set reached its peak with accidental stage invasions and more Christmas classics it was clear everyone, both on and off stage, was well into the festive spirit (or was it spirits?) before the music moved upstairs into the newly opened ‘Lions Den’ bar.

In its past life the upstairs room of The Golden Lion had been a semi-abandoned pool hall, but now, after some extensive renovations thanks to new owners White Rock Brewery, its has been converted into an old-fashioned feeling bar room with a small stage area at one end. While clearly made for more relaxed events the old world feel perfectly suited The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers and the energetic audience were certainly up for more great music.

The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers

Clem and Gemma of The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers

The Skillet Lickers style of ragtime street skiffle went down an absolute storm with people dancing from off the off and packed to the front, much like downstairs. A few sound issues early in the set were ably worked through and around by the now experienced band.

Added to their generally fairly fluid line up here was Andy Coleman on trombone and, given his experience playing everything from jazz to mod to ska, he fit in perfectly and it was like he’d been jamming with the band for years as they rolled through their repertoire of obscure vintage lo-fi classics in their trademark style.

Gemma, Clem and Shacks trio of vocals all played off each other excellently while Greg, Ash and Andy all had a chance to shine on musical leads as Paul kept the bass rhythm going on his battered looking tuba as the party atmosphere continued.

The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers

Ash, Andy and Shacks of The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers

With their first set finished Clameur De Haro were back downstairs for more of the same, albeit a little more ramshackle and well lubricated than an hour previously, and the atmosphere just kept lifting and lifting making for a great way to see in the Christmas weekend and a great round off to live music in 2016 (excepting of course the events happening on New Years Eve) that was very similar to how my musical year started back in January.

You can see more 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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