Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Drever, McCusker and Woomble -Before the Ruin

I have long had a deep affection for Idlewild, regrettably now a tad out of fashion - the Scottish undertow, the sort-of punky attitude but with a slice of literary influences and probably, it has to be said , my fondness for things Scottish and echoes of my personal history.

Roddy Woomble as frontman obviously has a lot to answer for in that respect. His solo album of a couple of years back - My Secret is My Silence - was one of those genuinely beautiful albums, the folkiness a refreshing counterpoint to some of the Idlewild material, the quality of the songs, the musicianship and all that jazz. It remains one of those few albums that have a particular place in my musical heart.

The new collaboration with Kris Drever and John McCusker, Before the Ruin, was either destined to be a further slice of that pie or a bit of a mistake. Comprising Kris Drever (acoustic and electric guitars, vocals), John McCusker (violin, cittern, whistle and tenor guitar), Francis MacDonald (drums), Phil Selway (drums), Ewan Vernal (bass), Norman Blake (vocals), Heidi Talbot (vocals) and Roddy Woomble (lead vocals), it is no disappointment. Clearly different from the Woomble solo album, but in a similar vein, heartfelt music that will last

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Winchell Riots - Histories EP

We saw the improbably named FellCityGirl once when they supported the Delays at the old style Zodiac in Oxford. At the time I was quite taken with them and especially the then new song February Snow. As if to spite me they split up soon after my first encounter.

From the ashes sprang more recently the, again, Oxford based Winchell Riots, a foursome that includes Phil McMill ex-vocalist etc of FellCityGirl and now leading a new bunch of chaps. Their name apparently springs from a Philip Roth novel, an author of whom they are clearly fond. I have to say that I somehow rather like his vocal style, although sometimes it threatens to annoy but manages to stay the right side of that. They have just released an EP, Histories, on Andrew The Great Records, ANDREW001 - yep, obviously the 'labels' first release. Available to be purchased via their MySpace site the four track seems worth the minor outlay. The title track has a remixed version courtesy of Youthmovies, fellow Oxford-ites and all round good eggs

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The Great Gig in The Sky

Farewell then Rick Wright. Pink Floyd provided the soundtrack to much of my teenage years. I remember well in 1973 the arrival of Dark Side of the Moon that along with many others proved to be a musical turning point for a tender 14 year old. I had never heard such music, the then remarkable stereo treatment, the assortment of audio 'objets trouves' and more conventional sounds, the sheer spine tingling music that remains as affecting now 35 years on as it did back then when I had hair and a future

Always being an aspirational keyboard player my heros were Rick Wakeman (together with the pomp and flounce of the capes, orchestras and general over-the-topness of it all) and Keith Emerson (for his more rock and roll virtuosity) but Rick Wright was still in there with his more understated (and ultimately more durable) keyboard structures and careful song writing.

The memories of the Animals show at Wembley Empire Pool and later The Wall at Earls Court did nothing to halt my attraction to the overwhelming shows prevalent in those hazy prog rock days. But behind the glitz the music was sound and skillful and part of that love affair of music forged all that time ago. Hey Ho - no Floyd reunion now it seems, probably just as well don't you think?

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Bon Iver at the Trinity

Bristol Trinity is a funny old venue; decomissioned church in an 'edgy' part of town, disappointingly low ceilinged given its original structure but none the less a pleasingly 'intimate' venue as Messrs Bon Iver mentioned at last nights sublime show (they played the Shepherds Bush Empire the previous night).

Just prior to their set Justin Vernon sidled his way through the sell-out crown apparently un-noticed by everyone as they stared at the stage wanting the set-up to be over. The dishevilled Vernon doesn't give off the air of a 'star', more like a local wandering around a gig. How does it feel to be overlooked one minute and then greeted with an uproareous welcome as soon as you set foot on stage?

I must admit to being nervous that Vernon and his excellent companions Mike Noyce and Sean Carey on guitar and drums would struggle to reproduce the fragile beauty of the album - but if anything they surpassed it with an even greater distinction between the quiet, faltering passages and the, comparatively, more straight ahead sections. The crowd was thankfully suitably reverential and hushed for the affecting quiet, acoustic sections but vociforously appreciative in all the right places.

The heartfelt, emotive nature of the songs came over in spades and the whole show was simultaneously emotional, uplifting, joyful and heartbreaking. The new song, Bloodbank, went down especially well as did the final encore when all of Bower Birds ( the support) and the Bon Iver chaps gathered around a single (rather small ) mic and sang a beautiful song (by a songstress whose name I didn't catch) with just Vernons acoustic gutar for company

Much as with the Band of Horses gig, the band really did seem to have a good time and appreciate the genuine warmth and affection from the crowd. It was a delight to see the band in such cosy surroundings and to have them perform such complete music so well. I wonder if we will really ever see them i such a small venue again?

Photo Courtesy Bon Iver Blog

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Haar to you to Mr Yorkston

Not sure why it has taken so long but I finally got a James Yorkston CD, the new 'When the Haar Rolls In', and a beautiful disc it is too. It seems a rather delicate offering in many ways, reinforced by his vocal style and the production. Although it is all skillfully played there is a sense that he didn't waste energy endlessly polishing and tweaking the final sound - not that this is a criticism, its quite refreshing really.

The lyrics are more like prose poems than the usual song lyrics and consequently manage to put over stories with sentiment and feeling rather than forcing unecessary rhymes and wotnot. 'The Capture of the Horse' being especially evocative for me.

The bunch of chaps that help out on instruments and vocals, collectively called the Athletes, help render the nu-folk scottish flavour well. As if it needed it, folk royalty in the form of Norma and Mike Waterson add their considerable qualities to 'Midnight Feast', itself written by Lal Waterson.

How good it is to have, for a change, a set of music which not devoid of instant pleasures, actually allows the listener the chance to listen and discover more at each turn - this is the music that lasts, quality will out in the end