Published on June 6th, 2016 | by Mike Ainscoe0
Mike Ainscoe’s June 2016 Album Round-Up
An early look at some of this month’s musical outpourings which have winged their way into the Bandwagon pigeonhole – or the box file thing on the Pure 107.8FM shelves with our name on.
STICK IN THE WHEEL / LYNCHED – ‘FROM HERE: THEN TO NOW’
From Here Records
Right. Interesting new marketing concept – a From Here Records / Blast First Petite co-production from two of folk’s high risers. Comes in the form of a mini newspaper, 12” vinyl sized naturally, and your download codes for the two tracks. Stick In The Wheel do ‘White Copper Alley’ while ‘Peat Bog Soldiers’ is by Lynched. Bit of background to the songs in the paper. SITW you can tell a mile off – tearing it down in two minutes, dispensed with handclaps and Spartan backing. Cut to the chase. Austere and with their own spin on a traditional tale. Lynched – well, an interesting origin and history behind their choice; sung a capella it’s as rootsy as you can get.
Newspaper contents – each band interview each other. Proves quite illuminating too. SITW typically forthright in both their questions for Lynched and in their responses to being quizzed. What comes across particularly strongly is the sense of home and community and the lot of the modern day folk musician. Something which is at the core of From Here Records. As is no compromise and the continued sharpening of their folk edge.
CAIN RISING – ‘CAIN RISING’
That’ll Do Records
A band formed by Southside Jimmy Price (as opposed to Southside Johnny Lyon of Asbury Jukes / New Jersey fame) whose name also gives a clue as to what you’re going to hear. Sonic touchstones (love that phrase) come in the shape of Springsteen, Dylan and in particular Tom Petty – a healthy recipe of American country, folk and rock, possibly with a speck of Bon Jovi styled pop hooks thrown in for good measure.
From the south side of Glasgow to London and Paris, Jim Price has done his time and paid his dues. If you’re wondering where you’ve heard the name before, he sang on Mike Oldfield’s ‘Magic Touch’ single from 1988. His heart lies in rock and roll though and while Cain Rising isn’t groundbreaking stuff by any means, it’s no nonsense passionately delivered rock and roll from, ‘The Rain’, to closing out with the low key end of the day goodbye of, ‘Ride The Sun’. It’s only the second song in before “it’s only rock and roll” pops up in the lyrics, and while ‘Riding In Another Man’s Car’ might be a euphemism for something else, the rockabilly drive gives way to a heavily influenced Springsteen moment in ‘Days Of Wine And Roses’. Hard to find fault really – a personal fave is ‘So Wrong’ where the stabs of organ add that certain slightly edgy thrill. Can’t argue with the press release either – real music for real people.
BOO HEWERDINE – ‘BORN’ EP
It’s not often you go a short period or travel very far without hearing the name Boo Hewerdine. ‘Born’ is an intriguing little collection of songs (‘songs and souvenirs’ they’re labelled), piano based rather than the usual guitar and with a strong family connection. Music played in fact on his father’s piano, including music written by Boo and his son; credits reading for both Boo and Ben Hewerdine plus the classic Hewerdine/Hewerdine partnership. Boo also produces while Ben has taken care of artwork – keeping it all in house more or less. Along the lines of his 2015 ‘Open’ album, a set of lost recordings found in a box, ‘Born’ is a similar curio. Lead track ‘The Year I Was Born’ reads like one of those birthday cards you can buy with the events of your year of birth. Talk about Paul McCartney being able to write a song given any subject or around any set of words… The whole caboodle is actually quite poignant at the same time as being intimate and organic; the sound of father and son just knocking out a few tunes together.
Ahead of a new album – ‘Swimming In Mercury’ – and tour to look forward to in October, Boo Hewerdine continues to churn out quality little nibbles, peppering us with treats and tasters before serving up the main course.
GILLIAN FRAME – ‘PENDULUM’
Cheery Groove Records
Gillian Frame was Scotland’s inaugural Young Traditional Musician of the Year in 2001 and it seems an eternity away. Similarly, her debut album may have been a long time coming but collects together a set of songs and tunes which has been part of her repertoire for the last 15 years. Having so many fingers in so many pies can’t be easy when you want to release your own album.
In proper folk custom, there are lots of arrangements of traditional tunes (trad. arrs.) with Gillian. Guitarist Anna Massie and producer and multi-instrumentalist Mike Vass take on the arranging duties, which include a ‘collaboration’ with Robert Burns and singer Adam Holmes on ‘Silver Tassie’. However, it’s a bluesy and rootsy opening as we kick off with “deep down under the ground” with ‘Rothes Colliery’ – incidentally written by husband Findlay Napier (a name we know well at the Bandwagon (his ‘Very Interesting Persons’ reviewed here) yet amongst all the brooding Scots themed and inspired songs, the standouts are the tune sets. Some real gems are unearthed – ‘The Grinder / The Red Crow / The Sisters’ and the jigs on ‘Jubilee Jig’ set are fine and feisty workouts. What we’d call proper belters, kick ass even, the latter being part of Back of The Moon’s debut album with whom Gillian played for a number of years. Ultimately, it’s great to see an obviously tremendous talent popping her head above the surface and for once not playing the sideman (or woman) but doing her own thing.
DAN REED NETWORK – ‘FIGHT ANOTHER DAY’
Looking more like Dan Dare than Dan Reed on the cover; a fearless freedom fighter pitting his wits against alien forces, looking like he’s on the end of a proper laser zapping emerging from a futuristic extra-terrestrial craft. Anyway. Some fans might have thought alien invasion a more likely happening than a new album from the DRN. 25 years since their last studio album, ‘The Heat’, their 25th anniversary gigs in Portland, Oregon on New Year’s Eve 2012 obviously sparked something. Into battle once more.
Hurtling in from the melodic rock world, ‘Fight Another Day’ not only appears as a statement of intent, but attempts to broaden the palette and incorporate a host of funk and soul elements. It’s certainly the case with the opening flurry of tracks – ‘Divided’ and ‘The Brave’ hitting the spot with catchy hooks and lush melodies which are easy enough on the ear. Whether or not it’s sustained across an hour and 13 tracks appears to be the crux. ‘B There With U’ (reading like a title from the Prince songbook) and ‘Save The World’, the latter an idealistic vamp through a number of passé lyrical ideas, start to lighten the tone to the extent that any hold on the attention begins to slacken as the songs swing into a more predictable direction. Shame, as the guys are obviously getting off on working and playing together again, just that a large bulk of the material doesn’t seem strong or engaging enough to deliver a punch.
ROBERT COYNE & JAKI LEBEZEIT – ‘I STILL HAVE THIS DREAM’
Introductions first. Robert Coyne – British alternative folk guitarist/multi-instrumentalist. Son of the late musician, painter, author Kevin Coyne and with a CV which includes Eric Burdon, The Scientists and Spooky Tooth. Jaki Liebezeit – the ‘half-man half-machine’ drummer behind Kraut rockers, Can, and guest on albums from Brian Eno to Depeche Mode. Essentially it’s Coyne who provides the songwriting and instrumentation, but together they’ve combined to create a peaceful, meditative album. Introverted, intimate and understated, yet containing some lyrically straightforward little gems. “Like a tit in a trance you don’t know where you are”, which basically says it like it is while “in the rehearsal room, laying down a lumpen groove” might essentially sum up the album.
Amongst the vignettes, which follow a similar pattern of Jaki laying down a steady paced groove, lumpen or otherwise, for Robert to decorate, suddenly appears eleven minutes of ‘Thank You (I’ve Got The Idea)’. Just when you think you’ve got the idea of the album from a series of songs which chill, both in a relaxing way yet with a sense of something more disturbing underneath, they deliver the knockout punch. A repetitive drum pattern gives way to what appears a simple stark drum and bass improvisation, kind of getting into a groove in the studio, letting the tapes run and see what emerges. For some an exercise in repetition, while for others, possibly the highlight of the album showing an imaginative determination to push the boundaries – who knows? Maybe just another creative direction to shift into when exploring moods and atmospheres. A classic example of music as art.
PEARL HANDLED REVOLVER – ‘IF THE DEVIL CAST HIS NET’
A bit of a left over here from the end of April which has been featuring on the show in the past month. When a package arrives from Jim & Maxine Soars PR you can usually count on it being something classy in the folk / acoustic line. Something that may well have also gone to Rick at Roots & Fusion and provide a bit of a talking point and a bit of crossover between the shows. Wrong. When one of the big rock mags talks of them, sounding like Tom Waits fronting The Doors, a wind change is about to blow through. In the form of blues rock from Bedford. A genre which seems to be re-emerging from the underground.
What have we been missing out on? 4 EPs and 2 albums from 2010-2013 for a start. Then there’s singer Lee Vernon whose ‘worn by whisky and smokes’ hoarse tone added to what some might call a retro keyboard sound – Simon Rinaldo’s mellotron and reedy graveyard organ – you have the elements which give PHR their distinctive sound. Their USP, blended from a mix of psychedelic and gutsy rock and soul. The title track, all extended freak out guitar noodling, backed by hypnotic organ and ‘Help Me Down From The Trees’ have been stand out songs which we’ve returned to over and over. Elsewhere, ‘Walk These Streets’ slows things down before ‘Absinthe In Adelaide’ cranks up the brooding intensity again (and offers up a much better song title than AC/DC’s ‘Bedlam In Belgium’) and ‘Loverman’s dark bluesy tone again gets a delicious organ driven treatment. A great slab, all 40 minutes of gritty rock from a band about whom the word needs to be celebrated and spread. Gold star of the month!
KRIS DREVER – ‘COVERS’ EP
In the aftermath of the excellent ‘If Wishes Were Horses’ album, here’s a nice 6 track limited edition collection / curio gathering together some, erm, covers. Doing what it says, as they say, on the tin. A couple of traditional songs do the bookending jobs, plus ‘No Banker Left Behind’ by a familiar name in Ry Cooder, yet he’s delved a little deeper to reveal a couple of songsmiths whose names may be unfamiliar, and whose work he’s brought to light. Darrell Scott, Michael Marra and Rivers Cuomo are certainly unfamiliar here. Although having said that – Weezer’s ‘Jamie’, written by Cuomo, has a certain Beatle-y feel about it Drever playing down the pop. It’s typically melancholy, some may say dour even and instrumentally modest. A bit of chilled electric guitar and a smidgen of vocal reverb, you get the feeling he’s just having fun (as in enjoying rather than having a wild party as it’s not exactly party music) playing around with these songs and recording them without the fuss and trappings which go with a full album release. And like many bands who don’t want to indulge in long gaps between albums, the EP culture maintains the profile. With Kris Drever though, it’s not just stopgap, it’s always worthwhile.