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.

 

When Debbie did Gallus, Blondie at the Glasgow Apollo.

Whilst there have been several fine musical Hogmanay performances at towns and cities throughout Scotland over the years perhaps the most memorable of them all was delivered by a five piece band of mod styled punks from New York.

In 1979 Blondie were at the peak of their popularity. The success of their 1978 breakthrough album, Parallel Lines had set them on course for a period of domination in the singles charts, the band scoring five number ones. Produced by Mike Chapman, Parallel Lines saw the group moving from their rawer new wave roots to deliver a more pop orientated sound. Enter any bar with a juke box during that period and it was inevitable that Debbie Harry’s voice would be featured more than most.

Their 1979 album Eat to the Beat, whilst not spawning as many hit singles, could arguably be described as their finest. Just as the Clash were doing  that year with London Calling, Blondie cast aside any New Wave constraints and tackled several different musical genres. Funk, disco and reggae tracks sat comfortably alongside the more familiar pop punk songs.  Blondie weren’t just at the peak of their popularity,  musically they were at the top of their game.

Nowadays it’s Jools Holland’s annual Hootenanny that is the must watch Hogmanay programme for music lovers. In the seventies The Old Grey Whistle Test provided the musical backdrop to many a music fans New Year gatherings. Marking the end of the seventies and the start of the eighties was going to take something special. Blondie at the Glasgow Apollo  were to prove pretty much perfect.

Looking back from this multi-channel digital age it can be hard to comprehend just how the presence of TV cameras could add so much to the anticipation and sense of occasion surrounding the next nights gig. The UK still only had three TV channels, twenty four hour coverage was rare with broadcasting usually ending shortly after midnight. Even breakfast television was three years away. Live broadcasts of any kind were rare. One straddling the outgoing and incoming decades was a true novelty.

The importance of the Glasgow Apollo in making this gig something special really can’t be over stated. When reminiscing about long gone venues it’s tempting to paint too rosy a picture. The Apollo was a bit rough around the edges. The famously high stage should have acted as a barrier between the fans and the bands that played there and the ‘enthusiastic’ bouncers crowd control ran the risk of putting a dampener on things. Only none of this mattered, there truly was something magical about the place. The atmosphere inside was often intense, particularly if it was a sell out.  As the band prepared to take to the stage the Apollo crowd was even more cranked up than usual. The group opened with Denis, a guaranteed crowd pleaser.  The twenty one songs that followed kept things at full speed throughout the entire evening. Anybody who had watched a gig from the balcony at the Apollo will remember how it felt when the whole structure started bouncing. There were some in the crowd that night who genuinely worried it was actually going to come crashing down. Live television coverage began eight songs in with Dreaming and ended with a bagpipe enhanced Sunday Girl. A further two songs, also  broadcast on Radio One, completed the set.

Speaking about the gig in 2011 Debbie Harry recalled that every song that night was met with the same enthusiastic response from the Glasgow crowd. It really can’t be claimed that one gig is greater than any other,  we can all have several ‘best ever’ gigs depending on our mood.  However as memories of New Years Eve past go,  1979 at the Apollo is still worth raising a glass to.

Blondie at the BBC, released in 2010, contains the entire concert on CD and the  portion that was televised on DVD.

A Very Merry Christmas from The Barley Boat

As the preparations for Christmas go in to last minute overdrive those of us yet to finish or even start their festive shopping may be tempted to call for a halt to the madness. With so many people on a mission to shop themselves to death whilst a cheesy pop soundtrack plays in the background the urge to yell “Humbug” and call for the whole thing to be banned can be overwhelming. And for nearly four hundred years in Scotland it was banned. Following the reformation and a couple of Acts of Parliament the celebration of Christmas was frowned upon. Aye, the Act was repealed in 1712 but it wasn’t until 1958 that Christmas day finally became a public holiday. Even then our participation was a wee bit half hearted. Newspapers were still printed, many businesses still opened and if it fell on a Saturday then, up until 1976, football matches still went ahead. In that year if you didn’t fancy sitting down to a plate of turkey and all the trimmings then you could have taken in Clydebank v St Mirren or Alloa v Cowdenbeath. Admittedly they weren’t exactly glamour ties but for some it was the more traditional option. Quite why we took so long to join the rest of the world in the annual lunacy is a mystery. Perhaps some of it was our desire to be different from our neighbours. Slade and Wizard is it? We’ll not be having any of that jollity, dig out the Leonard Cohen records.
Celebrate it we do though, and not instead of but as well as what was our more traditional celebration, Hogmanay. What used to be a manic one night bash is now a whole week of revelry. If nothing else it demonstrates our collective stamina to the rest of the world.
I’d like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and say a big thank you for taking the time to come here and take a look around. It’s still early days but visitor numbers so far have been encouraging. For those of you who have completed all your preparations and wrapped all your presents enjoy a relaxing Christmas Eve with a few well-earned drinks. And for those who are still trying to buy that perfect present for everyone, don’t panic. Remember that your local all night garage will be selling car shampoo and sponges right up until Santa’s scheduled delivery time.
Merry Christmas to you all.

Dancing on Tables new EP, Don’t Stop.

Young Dunfermline five piece Dancing on Tables released their new EP, Don’t Stop, earlier this month, marking the occasion with a launch night at Electric Circus in Edinburgh. It’s still early days for this band but if you are looking for some sparkly indie pop to keep you in the festive party mood then you should check these four tracks out.
Things get off to a lively start with the catchy title track. The song fairly gallops along with the chorus perfect for a live show singalong. It does what all good three minute pop songs should do,  leaves you wanting more. Next tune, Street of Sounds serves up more of the bands undeniably infectious sound. The third track, Ono, is something of a surprise as things are slowed down considerably, violin and acoustic guitar providing the backing to possibly the strongest vocal performances on the EP. It works remarkably well and provides the perfect counterbalance to the bands more typical style which is reprised in the closing song, Waiting on Saturday. There’s still a long way to go for this Fife quintet but they are certainly heading in the right direction.
Dancing on Tables will be starting 2017 with a gig at PJ Molloys in their hometown on the 7th January. It would defintely be worth making the effort to attend and hear these tracks live.

You can download Don’t Stop here.

Catching up with Hugh Kelly at The Double.

double

Hugh Kelly’s new single, The Double, was released on the 17th of November. We may have come slightly late to the party here, don’t you make the same mistake. Those of you are familiar with Mr Kelly will know to expect bluesy soulful vocals delivered at high intensity. The added ingredient here is an extra injection of pop sensibility compared to his previously released tracks. However it’s still all about that wonderful warm voice. The backing is fairly minimal but what there is does a good job of helping the song become planted inside your head.  There really is no messing about here, an instrumental intro is ditched as the vocal kicks in instantly and we are off on a three minute journey that flows along nicely and will leave you wanting to start it all over again.

Hugh Kelly has been gigging heavily throughout this year. Combine that work ethic with the potential on show here and if there is any justice we will be seeing him  going on to bigger things.

The Double can be purchased HERE.

Please take the time to visit Hugh Kelly’s website. 

A Couple of Christmas gifts from Laurie Cameron.

merry-xmas-laurie

As the annual party season begins to gather momentum the usual musical suspects are making their annual appearance.  We all know which songs are going to be enticing us into an orgy of drink fuelled out of tune singalongs and bad Dad dancing.  Tunes by Slade,  Wizard, The Pogues and even Shaking Steven will be embraced like old friends.  And there is nothing wrong with that, it’s all good raucous fun and an excellent opportunity to share some cheese filled moments with friends and family.

When you want your Christmas soundtrack to reflect the quiet contemplation of years gone past though then you have to dig a little deeper. Thankfully you don’t have to look much further than Scotland’s own Laurie Cameron who has gifted us a couple of rather wonderful alternative takes on the festive season.

Merry Christmas from Scotland (Lulled wi’ a stiff drink), originally released in 2012, is just over five minutes of reflective, clever lyrics accompanied by downbeat but pleasurable melodies. Cameron’s voice lifts the whole thing, her delivery ensuring we have something much more than mere seasonal melancholy here. When the festive blues kick in then it’s nice to know you are not alone, Laurie Cameron’s voice ensures you won’t be.

Her 2011 cover of Darlene Love’s Christmas standard Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) takes the original, slows it down and will break your heart if it catches you unaware. Many would consider it sacrilege to suggest that this Perth girl’s version surpasses the original. In capturing the tale of genuine yearning for a Christmas past that the lyrics suggest she may well have done just that.

Download Merry Christmas From Scotland HERE

More info at lauriecameron.co.uk