Piston: 1st August 2019

What is it that allows one band to have their 15 minutes of fame whilst another sinks without trace? It’s probably a mix of things that also include luck and circumstance but looking at the journey that Piston have been on, it seems that there is more to it than just being in the right place at the right time.

Piston released their first single in 6 years earlier this year. One More Day was then followed by Rainmaker; both tracks heralding a debut album that is due to be released on September 13th. This 5 piece rock band with members from the Midlands and the South East prove that resilience and self belief are definitely in the mix that can lead to success. They scrapped an entire album and decided to ‘resculpt ‘their sound; a brave decision and a real leap of faith. They won the Planet Rock Radio public vote to play the Ramblin’ Man Fair Festival which took place last month and will be touring over the next few months. In addition, the two tracks which have been released, bode well for the rest of the yet to be released album.

Rob Angelico talks of One More Day being about trusting the natural progression in life . All you can do is progress, no matter what the circumstances. Consequently, this track seems set to be a track for our times. It’s also a defiant statement from the band with intelligent lyrics twisting between negative and positive whilst rising above insistent, pounding, driving riffs and hooks. Rainmaker has a similar attention grabbing presence – an anthem to fill stadiums- as well as your head. One definition of a Rainmaker is a difference maker, one who can turn the tide when things get rough. On the strength of these two tracks Piston have clarified their intentions and a very different album seems set to deliver them.

Kitty Macfarlane

Ruskin Mill

Nailsworth

29th March 2019

Kitty Macfarlane, a Somerset singer/ songwriter presented her debut album, ‘Namer Of Clouds,’ to a large and near reverential audience at Ruskin Mill on Friday evening. Reminiscent of Karine Polwart, she has used this album to explore the symbiosis that exists between humans and nature and which she expresses personally through her love of the European Eel, a passion which she wryly observed might leave her in a category of one. So we are told about murmurations of starlings, of oyster beds and wading birds, the myth of Avona and the Two Giants as well as a visit to an island off Sardinia to meet the last spinner of sea-silk, a lady who seems to be as mystical as the product that she may not sell, as it has to be given away as a gift.

All of these acutely observed details are then crafted into song and pre recorded sounds and words help to enhance Macfarlane’s hauntingly beautiful and gentle voice. The exquisite guitar work hangs and shimmers around the lyrics highlighting the passion that Macfarlane exhibits throughout the backstories that she tells. Her obvious skill in creating an almost instant rapport with her audience draws the listeners in until the spell is broken by the interval. It will be interesting to see what a second album brings and whether her undisputed talent builds on this album or develops in a totally different direction.

‘Hole In My Soul’ Stu E Skinner 30th August 2018

‘Hole In My Soul’ is  Stu’s first release from  his third, currently untitled album.He plans to release songs at intervals,culminating in the release of the album at the end of 2018.

This is a stunning track,tightly contained within a driving,repetitive guitar sound that becomes searing in its intensity. One of Stu’s great strengths is his ability to share unflinching personal lyrics, facing down all the emotional debris left behind in the aftermath of a lost relationship. Later in the song, more subtle guitar strokes and harmonies add a  contrast underpinning the balance and perfect judgement of where to add the light and shade that the song requires, so it doesn’t tip over into maudlin self pity.It’s a fine line and it takes skill to make it work which it does and in the process,reveals Stu as a master of his craft.

The Scrutineers- The Crown and Sceptre Outer Fringe 2018

The Scrutineers,Tim Jones, Jhassi Fletcher, Mic Inversi and Jamie Walker had technical issues from the outset that plagued their whole performance. Despite this,they tried to make the best of the situation and played through to the end of their set. They write their own material,their lead vocalist has a superb voice and the later harmonies provided a welcome variety and contrast. All of this was backed up by excellent instrumentals.They are  worth a second hearing when hopefully it will all be plain sailing, revealing their undoubted talents.

The Lost Submarines- The Crown and Sceptre Outer Fringe 2018

The Lost Submarines are Matt Knight,Rob Havis,Rich Lucas and Dave Mauler who simply hit the ground running and sustained a tight, buzzy sound until the end of the set.They have been together for four months which is interesting, considering how well they fit together as a unit and how comfortable they appear to be on stage.The music is solid and reliable, underpinning original songs which again are surprisingly good for a new band. On the one hand, I might have expected such a band of seemingly very experienced and confident musicians to have played safe; the fact that they didn’t  makes their sound even more enjoyable.

Treetop Flyers- The Crown and Sceptre Outer Fringe 2018

I reviewed and interviewed the Flyers in 2010, 2011 and in 2013 when they had won the Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent award and also released a debut album.In interviews, I tend to ask musicians where they see themselves being in 5 years time. They generally have an idea and then I never get to see the band again. Flyers are an exception due to the fact  that they came across to Stroud from London for the Outer Fringe festival and that a former Flyer lives locally.

They have developed musically and inevitably have struggled along the way in working out who they want to be and how they can achieve this.Although they come from London, they are steeped in Americana, country and blues and what has now emerged, is a band who have lost a few former members in order to include a new drummer and saxophonist to join original founders Reid,Laurie and Sam.The music has benefited from this change, resulting in a fuller, deeper sound that even flirts with dance music which seems a natural progression from the former stripped back delivery. The clever updating of some of their earlier material is a clear example of how this change works and the songs on the brand-new album are so good that my husband played the CD twice in succession based on a first hearing.There is still the same chemistry and genuine emotion in Reid’s vocals supported by the combined musical wizardry of  guitars and drums now newly overlaid with sax.This of course can open up the Flyers still further and I am happy to wonder yet again where they will be in 5 years time. For now,the band are off to the Americana Festival in Nashville in September.See their website for further dates and details.

Plush Replica- The Crown and Sceptre Outer Fringe 2018

Plush Replica are Oscar Jones,Samuel Blythe, Alex Haynes and Rainer Sewell and from the outset demonstrated a sheer sophistication and expertise rarely seen in a band this young.Three of the members finished the music course at Stroud College last year.Oscar has the perfect voice for other-worldly space rock; losing his voice simply allows him to sound like a young David Bowie. The band write songs collectively with Oscar mostly writing all the vocal melodies and the combined use of synth, guitar,keyboard, bass, drums and samplepad produces an extraordinarily rich, textured and multilayered musical experience.Add to that, a confidence and an overwhelming sense of unity demonstrated through their use of colour and costume proves that this band is most definitely one to watch and one that is surely destined for a great future.

 

 

 

Dave Purple – The Crown and Sceptre Outer Fringe 2018

 

Opening any gig is often a daunting experience. It is also an important one, given that an audience has walked in off the street and it is the responsibility of the first act to set the scene for the rest of the event. It is extra daunting if you are doing this on your own, as Dave Purple did with five more bands to follow. Armed only with a guitar and harmonica, he  made a very creditable attempt. He was easy on the ear, he has a good voice and he can play- the Cream cover of ‘Spoonful’ had just the right amount of languorous expression and  in ‘Nothing Changes’,the right balance of opinion versus a political stance and where I saw glimmerings of a real passion for what he was doing.Years ago, there was a guitarist who played to five of us in a fairly big arena. He really didn’t care who was listening, provided that they did listen and that they recognised his belief in the power of words allied to music.The result was that he played as if he was headlining Glastonbury.Dave Purple has this kind of authenticity. He now needs to project that passion and belief so that an audience doesn’t just see him as an opening act but as a headliner.

‘Tokyo’ official music video – Chimpanbee – 12th August 2018

Tokyo is the  first single from the album. ‘Can’t Stop or Rewind’ which I have previously reviewed on this site. On first hearing, it is reminiscent of early Oasis but with a gentleness that Oasis lacked. The tune becomes an ear worm  on second and third listenings and the accompanying song narrative perfectly enhances the video.Shot in black and white,moody, rain soaked streets and a  backstreet pub contain clever film references, the most dominant of which is ‘singin’ in the rain’, without the singing! It’s been well thought out and the story of the contrast between hard graft in a pub while dreaming of the magic of dance leading to the perfect relationship, might seem as old as time but here feels completely fresh and inevitable.

Eric Clapton 1st July 2018

I watched a two hour biography “Life in 12 Bars” on BBC 2 last night. It was down to earth and told Clapton’s story as it was. Why is it that so often, talent goes hand in hand with tragedy? It was on a massive scale, I’m not sure that life could have thrown much more at him, yet he battled through. He now seems to have found happiness. Let’s hope that it lasts.