The Cornelius Crane -20th May 2014

Ruby Music are currently promoting Stephen Wilson,Dan Adams and Mark Adams aka The Cornelius Crane who come from East Manchester. Defining themselves as ‘Mancana, a Northern English slant on the early 70’s west coast sound of America,’ they have a 3 track Ep coming out on 2nd June.

The Ep provides a taster of a debut album due to be released in Autumn 2014. These three tracks are a mix of early Neil Young,The Flying Burrito Brothers, Buffalo Springfield, in short,Nashville colluding with a Mancunian take on life where lyrics dominate but still need the support of languid lazy drums and sleepy slide guitar.’Philistine Blues’ takes a country and blues stance with a contrast of sound and instruments,’Cage’ and ‘Oklahoma and me’ have the most intriguing lyrics evoking a past age where opportunities were endless, provided you chose wisely. Mancana is an intriguing possibility and it remains to be seen if it can be sustained over an entire album. Autumn should give us the answer.

‘The Art of Amputation’ EP by The Art of Amputation-30th April 2014

‘The Art of Amputation’ is a 4 piece band from London comprising Freddy De Lord, Hugh Fox, Allan Harrod, and Mark Hyden who are the latest signing of Ruby Music. They have played at The Garage in Islington and The Shacklewell Arms and have been described as ‘alternative synth soundscapers.’

This debut EP contains all the elements of dream pop, chugging beats that support incisive, existential lyrics occasionally delivered by a falsetto voice and the wail of a guitar that is perfect for adding an angst ridden edge to a song such as ‘Inside Our Glasshouse.’The band are all about texture and mood, creating a setting that allows the listener to become fully immersed in the overall blending of sounds and emotions. The effects in ‘Detroit’add another dimension to the melody and guitar riffs and also cleverly create  a musical connection with ‘Losing The Limb’, the shortest track at just over two minutes which proves that sometimes less is definitely more by distilling the essence of a song into a short space of time. The final track, ‘Scary Noises’, has an insistent driving rhythm that gives way to a gentler sound and repeated lyrics, another excellent commentary.

The tracks all come from live performances and have started to attract attention on radio playlists. More shows and releases are promised over the year.

White Count- The Battles of Winter-2nd March 2014

This is another single from the band’s forthcoming album ‘Standing at the Floodgates’. White Count follows on from ‘A Blackout for the Bloodsuckers’ which I have recently reviewed. A tour to promote the release of the album is due to start this month.

Both the track and the accompanying video are a mix of the personal crossed with Ultravox, Interpol and Editors. The video is militaristic in approach seemingly focussed on both human and biological warfare which makes for interesting viewing. The strongest feature is the intelligent and thoughtful narrative lyrics which are by turns provoking and chilling supported by music that is equally provocative and unsettling.It all makes for what promises to be an arresting album.

The Soul Collective- 28th January 2013

The Soul Collective are signed to Room 2 Grow which was founded in March 2012. I have listened to a number of tracks which are a blend of soul and hiphop, driven by the voices of Tristan Pennewell and Joe Walton who also write the lyrics.I expected urban grit but instead got a collection of tunes softened by a range of percussion and horns amongst other instruments. Voices meld and complement effortlessly, enhanced by delicate musical touches, catchy rhythms and horns that give a yearning poignancy. The lyrics are clear, revealing a rap commentary that ranges across a range of experiences, particularly of love and beauty. ‘Midnight Murder’is a particularly effective song, simple but powerful and the beautiful ‘Till the end of the Line’ for me encapsulates the skill of perfectly matched vocals and music. The accompanying video is well worth a watch as well.

Lost Without Cause : ‘Revival’ Ep: 31st October 2017

Lost Without Cause are a 3 piece band who have recently released the 4 track Ep ‘Revival’. 4 tracks can normally give only a taster of what a band intends but this Ep has managed to take one relationship and analyse it from four different perspectives.The focus is a tangle of emotions, intensity, loss,revival and renewal subtly shaped through the sheer intelligence of the lyrics, highly charged images that are personal and yet also universal.The music simply underlines and enhances the emotion rather than attempting to control it, resulting in an energetic and solid sound that can also be delicate when required. There are elements of Snow Patrol and Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong but this is a thought provoking and perceptive Ep that stands on its own merits. More please!

Martin Simpson Colston Hall 18th October 2017

What an amazing night. Simpson created a spellbinding evening ; even he felt the magic, commenting that there was a unique vibe and energy in the room. He’s also very approachable. My husband was talking to him about the last time we’d seen him at The Convent in Woodchester. Sadly, he hadn’t enjoyed the evening there very much, for reasons that most of us who know The Convent’s latest history will sympathise with.The usual banter and anecdotes helped to flesh out the life history of the songs, some amusing, the pigeon who fell off a branch when confronted by a red kite ( the bird) and some distressing ( his mother’s dancing shoes)All in all, a very special evening from a very special musician.

The Black Feathers – Stroud Sub Rooms 14th September 2017

Sian Chandler and Ray Hughes aka The Black Feathers are currently taking the ‘Holy Water’ tour across Britain. The last time I reviewed this remarkable duo was at The Convent in 2016. Since then, they have released an EP to add to their repertoire. Their songs draw on past experiences reflecting a challenging lifestyle. A tour of the USA  enabled them to  refine and augment ideas and influences that underpin songs that carry a weight of darkness and unhappiness with a sprinkling of hope. Make no mistake, these are songs to lacerate the soul, as felt in the extraordinary power of the track ‘Holy Water’ breathtaking in its juxtaposition of ideas. There is a genuine authenticity in the recollection of pain experienced and remembered which is then shared through anecdotal narrative.What saves the whole performance from collapsing under its own weight however, is a perfectly judged balance of where and when to add a lighter touch such as adding cover versions of songs like ‘Spirit in the Sky’ or ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ or appreciating Sian’s dry sense of humour.The audience on Thursday was enthralled in every sense of the word, literally held in thrall through exquisite, shimmering harmonies and guitar work that ranged from dangerous to delicate so that applause at the end of each song felt almost intrusive.Thank you Sian and Ray for a thoroughly enjoyable  evening that drew people of all ages together  –  including their youngest fan – a little girl of 18 months.