Snippets – Lonnie Donegan, Iona Fyfe and Stuart Adamson

Lonnie Donegan
Sixty years ago today Lonnie Donegan was sitting on top of the charts for the first time with his skiffle version of Cumberland Gap. Born Anthony James Donegan in Bridgeton, Glasgow he was to spearhead the do it yourself skiffle movement that was to inspire countless young British groups including the Quarrymen, later to become the Beatles. He adopted his stage name after opening for American bluesman Lonnie Johnson. His first hit came in 1956, an up tempo version of Rock Island Line, an American folk song previously covered by Leadbelly. It was the start of a run of consecutive hit singles that was to see him become the most successful British recording artist prior to the Beatles hitting the scene. In later years he became a producer and also released several novelty records including My Old Man’s A Dustman. Many artists have gone on record to emphasise the influence he had on their nascent careers including members of the Beatles, Roger Daltrey and former Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler. Lonnie Donegan died in November 2002. His influence on the development of popular music lives on and will continue to resonate for as long as young musicians are starting out with nothing more than a few chords, cheap instruments and a love of what has gone before.

Iona Fyfe
There’s only a few days left to run on Iona Fyfe’s crowdfunding appeal for her debut album. Her interpretations of the traditional ballads of the North East of Scotland have already seen her gather a legion of fans. Scheduled for release early next year it will be one worth looking out for. You can help fund what is sure to be a beautiful album by following the link below.

Link to crowdfunding page.

Stuart Adamson
Stuart Adamson, founder of The Skids and Big Country would have been 59 years old today. It is really hard to believe it is over 15 years since he passed away. One of the most talented guitarists of his generation his truly unique sound will never be forgotten.

 

Vukovi – A Bright Shining Debut.

It’s been nearly a month now since Vukovi released their self-titled debut album. If you want your rock albums to leave you breathless and gasping for more then Vukovi do not disappoint. There is no gentle introduction, opening track ‘La DI Da’ grabs you by the scruff of the neck and takes you on a ride you won’t want to get off in a hurry. Everything that you would expect to find in a superior pop rock album is here. Crunching guitars, killer riffs, intelligent lyrics, some subtle synth sounds to add a wee bit of spice and topping it all off an idiosyncratic lead singer who quite simply demands your attention. Janine Shilstone is, in turns, belligerent, gentle, aggressive, subtle, occasionally scary and never less than captivating.

The songs are of a consistently high standard with ‘Weirdo’, ‘Prey’, ‘Bouncy Castle’ and the aforementioned ‘La Di Da’ being particular highlights. There is some seriously heavy rock here and it is lifted well above the norm by the bands well-honed pop sensibilities. The blend of infectious melodies and surprising twists and turns delivered with energetic bravura provides something that is never less than good fun. When the world seems dull and grey the best anti-dote is often a dose of quirky rock music in glorious technicolour and that’s just what Vukovi have given us.  Treat yourself by adding it to your collection.

Buy a real life hold in your hand copy of the album here.

Or if  filling your lugs is more than enough buy here.

Adriana Spina -Let Out The Dark.

The new album by Adriana Spina, Let Out the Dark, was launched just last week. Released on her own Ragged Road label it’s a strong set full of folk tinged Americana served up with style and verve.

Things kick off  with one of the strongest songs on the album, Home. The thoughtful lyrics are sung beautifully with voice and instruments blending perfectly to deliver a very satisfying start to proceedings.

The second track, Hear it From You, is the first of several tracks which see the band rock things up, providing a contrast to the more introspective moments. Various themes are tackled here, both familiar and unexpected. See Another Day is an emotionally raw social commentary on the current refugee crisis whilst Don’t Recognise Me is a delightful cry of love for childhood. There’s even a wonderfully plaintive Christmas song, Sparkle. An alternative take on the festive season, it’s a song that can easily be listened to all year round.

Let Out the Dark is a grown up lyrically honest collection of songs with Adriana Spina’s voice never less than captivating throughout. It’s been six years between the release of her debut album and this one. There’s plenty here to have you hoping that number three is not so far away.

Visit Adriana Spina’s website  here.

You can check out the video for See Another Day below.

 

Feel the warmth from Campfires in Winter’s debut album.

Released at the end of February, Ischaemia is the first full album from Campfires in Winter. The four piece band, originally from Croy, have been working hard for a few years now to get to this point so it’s good to be able to say their endeavours have been worthwhile. The nine tracks here are hewn from the same rich aural seam that bands such as The Twilight Sad have already worked so well.  Campfires in Winter have however added enough lustre to ensure they present themselves with a distinctive, fresh and interesting sound

Opening track Kopfkino sets the tone for what is to come, some muscular guitar work driving things along nicely.  It’s followed by Free Me from the Howl, a contender for the best song on here. The tale of woe is delivered by lead vocalist Robert Canavan in an accent so Scottish it makes The Proclaimers sound like they’re from the Home Counties. The album’s pace is just about right with enough twists and turns along the way to make the entire listening experience a rewarding one. With a Ragged Diamond, one of the best singalong numbers here, picks things up at just the right time before the atmospheric Silent and Still and Each Thing in Its Last Place brings things to a neat conclusion.

Ischaemia is an intelligent, well-crafted album and definitely worth checking out.  At the very least it should have you scouring the listings pages so that you can hear these songs played live.

Campfire in Winter’s website.

Follow the band and share some Facebook love here.

And below,  the rather wonderful video for Free me From the Howl.

First Tiger, Dedicated Non-Followers of Fashion.

First Tiger’s debut album, Dedicated, was released in the autumn of 2016. It’s as original a collection of songs as you will hear in any year. You are never really too sure where the band are taking you at times as they continually defy expectations throughout the course of the album. It really is hard to pin down one over-riding influence at work here as they have produced a melting pot of the familiar to serve up something that is quite unique.

The band themselves cite, among others, Fats Waller, Prince, Jacques Brel and rather wonderfully gonzo chef Anthony Bourdain as influences. The spirit of Brel is certainly present here, most noticeably on standout track, For Pete’s Sake. The lyrics throughout the ten tracks are a constant delight as various dramas unfold, always clever, sometimes acidic and often laugh out loud funny.

With a total running time of just over thirty minutes it’s pleasing to find just so much packed in here. Thankfully the temptation to overcook things has been avoided and the tracks flow along with a lightness of touch that should keep the listener hooked from beginning to end.

On the title track, Dedicated, the singer tells us that ‘’nothing will have any meaning if everything’s a fad.” First Tiger certainly aren’t following any discernible trend here, choosing a path that isn’t just fresh and interesting but is also damn good fun to follow them down. On this showing they deserve a lot more of us making the journey with them.

First Tiger are on Facebook here and Twitter here.  Follow this link for the band’s website.

Strata, The Delightful New Album from Siobhan Miller

Released on the 24th of February, Siobhan Miller’s second album, Strata, is a collection of songs which have played a major part in nurturing the singers own musical makeup. It works superbly well. Miller’s unfussy delivery and subtle phrasing adds a freshness to each song, the evolution rather than revolution approach adopted here proving to be a wise one. With well known musicians such as Kris Dreever and Phil Cunningham present the instrumental backdrop is as you would expect, superb.  Miller is never outshone though, the beauty of her voice taking the listener on a very pleasant musical journey over all eleven tracks.
Highlights include opener Banks of Newfoundland which sets things up nicely. The Bob Dylan Cover, One too Many Mornings, is simply gorgeous whilst her version of Ed Pickford’s Pound a Week Rise resonates nicely with today’s politically troubled times. Final track The Ramblin’ Rover will have your foot stomping before playing the whole album over again.

You can find out more info about Siobhan Miller including tour dates here.

Be Charlotte – Damn Good Vibes @The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, 19/02/17

Low-fi pic of Be Charlotte Aberdeen 19/02/17

What could be better than going to see a live act at the Lemon Tree in Aberdeen on a Sunday night?  Going to see three live acts of course which is what the crowd at last nights Be Charlotte gig in Aberdeen  were served up.

Hugh Kelly kicked things off. His low key entrance, a short shuffle from the bar area to the stage, was followed by a well received six song set. Accompanied only by his own guitar playing, his big bluesy voice would more than fill much larger rooms.  The good natured heckling between songs from his supporters only added to the warm vibe he created.  His stripped down version of last single, The Double, was one of the highlights of the entire evening.

Next up was local band The Capollos. Their enthusiastic guitar driven indie-rock exhibited a fine ear for melody.  With some more than decent riffs being thrown out  this band has a firm foundation to build on for the future with the pick of the bunch from last nights set being recent single, Eyes on You.

Be Charlotte waste no time in getting down to business.  Frequently referred to as Charlotte Brimner’s alter ego it’s worth noting that this is a bona-fide three piece band. The guiding light is of course the front woman and from first to last her impressive stage presence has the audience watching her every move. Her sharp intelligent lyrics are delivered in an impressive variety of vocal styles as she takes the audience on a sonic journey that frequently veers off on to unexpected detours along paths less ambitious artists would simply by-pass. With tunes such as Discover, Machines that Breathe and People there is absolutely no filler here, the short sweet set flowing steadily from start to finish. The unaccompanied vocal at the end of Drawing Windows delivered a genuinely spine tingling moment.   My advice would be to catch Be Charlotte at a smaller venue while you still can, based on this performance bigger stages surely lie ahead.

You can get more info about Be Charlotte from here.

Want to know more about Hugh Kelly?  Click here.

More details for The Capollos?  Click here.

 

Spinning Coin – Raining on Hope Street, an early contender for single of the year?

Spinning Coin, a four piece band from Glasgow, released their eponymous EP on FuzzKill records back in 2015. Five tracks of melodic indie pop, it was a more than encouraging debut. Last year’s offering, Albany, released on the Pastels’ Geographic label was further proof that this was going to be a band worth listening to.

Their latest single, Raining on Hope Street may well be the most glorious slice of indie pop you will hear all year. Blending both strength and vulnerability together comfortably in just over two minutes is no mean feat yet Spinning Coin manage it with a subtleness of touch that makes it look easy. It’s a track that not only hooks you in from the intro but also rewards repeat listening as further layers reveal themselves. The vocals here are delicious, the guitars constantly surprising. The synergy present lifts everything to another level.

As so many of us feel the need to take shelter from an increasingly right wing political shit storm any message of hope is welcome. Listening to Raining on Hope Street is like getting a reassuring arm around the shoulder. Really, what more could you ask for?

Raining on Hope Street is available digitally now, physical copies will be available from the 24th of March, pre-order it HERE.

Second Life, Kathy Muir’s Message from America

The video for Troubled Town, a track from Kathy Muir’s third album was released at the tail end of last month. A song about her current home town in the United States and the City she was brought up in, Edinburgh, it serves as a pleasantly soulful introduction to the artist for those who may not be familiar with her work. The piano only accompaniment complements her voice perfectly as she delivers an ultimately optimistic outlook on life.

It’s a theme that runs throughout the album the track was lifted from, Second Life. Released in September of last year it’s well worth catching up with now. Trying to slot this collection of songs in to any particular genre is difficult. What’s served up is an interesting cocktail of pop, folk, jazz and more.  Placing the title track at the end is a real sign of Muir’s confidence in the album as a whole as she invites the listener to go on a complete musical journey with her.

There are highs here, lyrically and musically. Opener, Lucky One, drips with sarcasm,  sugar coated with a soaring melody. What follows is a mature collection of songs offering more than enough variation to keep the listener interested.  One of the folksier tracks here, Like Warriors, has Muir recalling her upbringing in Edinburgh. The images conjured up of childhood seen from an adult perspective are a delight. Anybody who was brought up in Oxgangs during the sixties or seventies will surely have the accompanying video playing on repeat for hours.

Final track, Second Life, brings things neatly to a satisfying conclusion. There are constant references throughout the album to childhood, instilled values of decency and compassion and faith in the future. Aye, life may be tough at times but the human spirit will prevail. In these increasingly uncertain times it’s a comforting vision to share.

For more information on Kathy Muir visit her website.

Remembering John Martyn

At the end of this month it will be eight years since John Martyn, one of Scotland’s most prolific musicians died. Despite producing several highly acclaimed albums and gaining the respect of his peers he never came close to gaining the commercial success his talents deserved, possibly because he was one of the great musical non-conformists.  As a guitarist his innovative and unique style was peerless.  His voice was a thing of beauty,  his slightly slurred delivery adding yet another layer of magic . As a songwriter his craftsmanship was impeccable.  When these three elements combined during a performance the synergy was astonishing. Songs such as Sweet Little Mystery,  Solid Air, Small Hours  and so many more are all capable of  taking the listener on an emotional journey that they will never want to end.

John Martyn was born in Surrey in 1948 as Iain McGeachy.  His childhood was spent in Glasgow where he had moved to as a young child with his father after his parents divorced. He cut his teeth as a guitarist and singer playing in various folk clubs around Glasgow before following the well-worn path from Scotland to London. After changing his name to John Martyn, he began to attract attention playing at venues such as the Les Cousins basement folk club. In October 1967 Island records released his debut album, London Conversations. It was a solid start to a recording career that would produce over 20 studio and live albums. December 1968 saw the release of The Tumbler, a second album of folk songs but this time with a slightly heavier jazz element.

In 1969 he headed for Woodstock having been hired to act as a backing guitarist on his new wife Beverley Kutner’s album. He wasn’t to remain in the background long and after pushing himself forward on the back of several songs he had written the married couple became a musical duo. The result was the 1970 LP, Stormbringer. They would make two records together before he resumed his solo career and the rest of the 1970’s was to see Martyn produce some of his most consistent work. The highlight of the decade, and possibly his whole career,  was  1973’s Solid Air. Ostensibly a folk record it was a genre defying masterpiece, one of those albums that will constantly be rediscovered by following generations.

He ended the decade with perhaps his most emotional album of all, Grace and Danger. A response to the break-up of his marriage to Beverley its release was delayed for a year by Island supremo Chris Blackwell.  A friend to both husband and wife, he initially declared it far too disturbing. He had a point, it made Dylan’s reaction to his divorce, Blood on the Tracks, seem almost joyful by comparison. The album took its title from a manager’s description of Martyn’s character, a comment that Martyn himself conceded was fair.  When thinking back on John Martyn’s career his dark side really can’t and shouldn’t be ignored.  Drug abuse and long term alcoholism cast a shadow over his life and the problems that inevitably causes, both physically and mentally were not to pass Martyn by.  Allegations of domestic abuse certainly sit at odds with the hauntingly beautiful love songs he produced. . As outsiders most of us really only have the music to base our judgement on and as with many great artists we must accept that he was no saint.  Just how big a sinner he was is still open to conjecture though.

The eighties and nineties were to see Martyn continuing to push the boundaries.  Whether it was on genre crossing albums, soundtracks or live performances he continued to do the unexpected.  It’s a track that those who have already achieved considerable commercial success can follow virtually risk free, the financial cushion that huge sales bring acting as a safety net.  For an artist like John Martyn, who had never really hit the big time, it was a path fraught with danger but nonetheless a path he continued to tread.

The new millennium saw Martyn continuing to record and perform whilst continuing to surprise.  In 2001 he teamed up with dance artist Sister Bliss to record a cover of The Beloved’s Deliver Me, a venture that saw him hit the singles charts.

In 2003, whilst living in Kilkenny, Ireland, John Martyn had his right leg amputated following major problems caused by a baker’s cyst yet he still continued to perform whilst sat in a wheelchair.  Weight issues caused by his immobility dogged his final years yet his black humour still shone through, frequently referring to himself as a one legged sumo wrestler to his audience.

John Martyn passed away on the 29th of January 2009 due to respiratory failure. His legacy and influence on those who have followed him simply cannot be overestimated.  Those who worked with him described him as being both a brilliant musical comrade and a difficult one.  We can all only be thankful that his apparent unwillingness to compromise has left us with such a rich and diverse library of music to enjoy, full of mernts of genuine beauty.

John Martyn September 1948 – January 2009.