It’s a been a while and can’t believe it’s been nearly four months … life’s been busy, but better late than never!
WHAT GIGS HAVE I ATTENDED RECENTLY?
American indie band The National played at the Hammersmith Apollo on Wednesday 27 September – one of four sold out nights in the city where they really started to make themselves known. These were a revelation to me when I first saw/heard them supporting Neil Young at Hyde Park a few years ago. It took a while for me/the crowd to get into their stride as the first six songs were taken from their new album Sleep Well Beast which had only been out a couple of weeks. This album evolves their sound – more drum machines, more laptops – but I’m still not sure it works for me, however, what do I know – it went to number 1 in the UK album charts which must be some kind of record, coming 18 years after their first release. The band have always stood out from the indie rock masses by their dogged avoidance of cliché, both musically and, more importantly, with their lyrics. Matt Berninger is one of the most gifted writers in rock. In total, they played nine tracks off the new album, interspersed with 14 from the past – anthems all – it felt like being at a large church event with the faithful crowd singing along ‘word for word’. Someone once said The National: “… are a kind of Nirvana for people who shop at Waitrose” not that it ever seems to bother them.
Walter Trout The legendary American blues guitarist played Chinnery’s in Southend on Saturday 7 October. This was an evening of unadulterated classic blues. Trout plays earth shattering blues rock music, he was voted the 6th best guitarist ever in a BBC Radio listeners poll. Despite being near to death and having to learn to walk, talk and play guitar again, Trout has lost none of his prowess and remains an ‘axe man’ of the highest order. If anything, his experiences have impacted hugely on his song writing and his first album since his ‘time out’ Battle Scars provided much of the best material of the night. Indeed, if the blues is about feel and emotion Trout has it in bucket loads, and he’s unafraid to share it with his fans. T here’s a point deep into the show when he briefly shares some of his darkest moments with the crowd on the introduction to ‘Please Take Me Home’. As he turns to his adjust his amp, he’s clearly fighting off the tears, only to rally again with a blistering solo that simply blows a packed audience away. One of my gigs of 2017.
Lauren Housley Played a fantastic gig to a packed out St Mary’s church on Friday 13 October – one of Lauren and her band’s favourite venues and it showed in their playing and audience interaction. To quote Lauren: “We had such a beautiful evening playing for you all in Billericay! What a pleasure to come and play again.” It really was a fabulous night of gutsy blues and heart wrenching soul with a dose of country rock with some originals and covers. Lauren’s version of Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’ is an absolute belter and worth the admission alone. Lauren has been selected to showcase at the next Americana Music Association UK Festival in London on 31st January 2018. As a member of AMAUK (as a promoter) I nominated Lauren for this – not saying it was down to me, but glad to know I’ve still got an ear for up and coming artists! Remember Lewis and Leigh and Robert Vincent?
The Cork Jazz Festival Celebrated its 40 Anniversary in October and I was there to be part of an excellent weekend. With over 72 venues playing non-stop music over four days in a vibrant city, it’s a music lovers dream. Highlights were many Clare Sands (see below) along with Brooklyn based ‘The Clubs’ a mix of disco, funk and jazz – album is superb too. Imelda May at the Opera House was something special too. There were one of two ‘gaffes’ (such as Kenny Garrett – I’m not a great lover of read jazz). The Cork Folk festival takes place in September 2018 and think I’ll be going along to that. Wanna come?
Peter Perrett Played at the Electric Ballroom in Camden on Saturday 4 November. Formerly front man of the 70s New Wave band The Only Ones, Perrett has emerged from 20 years of drug and alcohol fuelled exile to make music again with his first solo album How The West Was Won at the age of 65. But he really is back now and his song writing is as beguiling and witty as ever. The set features all 10 tracks from How The West Was Won plus some old favourites as well as new songs that didn’t make it on to the album but are good enough to cry out for a follow-up. Perrett played a set of 22 songs with 6 from ‘The Only Ones’. It was a scintillating ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’ which elicited the most rapturous applause of the night. Perrett’s drug-ravaged lungs miraculously holding out on every song. “But I didn’t die, at least not yet, I’m still just about capable of one last defiant breath,” he sings on ‘Something In My Brain. He bravely ended the gig alone on stage with his guitar singing ‘It’s The Truth’ a fitting end to a gig that celebrated his incredible skills as a songwriter, but it also evoked a tinge of sadness at what he could have achieved in the past 20 years if he’d been able to remain sober!
Ricky Ross at Emmanuel on Friday 24 November was the largest and highest profile gig I’ve promoted during my time in Billericay. Thank you to everyone who has bought tickets for a gig that was the first to sell out on this tour (August) and a tour on which I was the only independent promoter! As some of you will know Raintown by Deacon Blue was the first CD I ever bought and so to have Ricky Ross playing a gig in my church was quite something. I don’t think I was the only one present who was ecstatic. Long time super fan of all things Deacon Blue and Ricky Ross, Kirstie Bleakley, has written an excellent review of this gig and you can read it here. Ricky enjoyed himself too and his sound tech guy said Emmanuel was the best venue they’d played on this tour – praise indeed! Support Anthony D’Amato was a revelation and is well worth checking out too. Social media was pretty hot that weekend and the Billericay Discussion Page labelled me as ‘young and trendy’ – who am I to disagree!
MY UPCOMING GIGS
I have a number of gigs coming up in the next couple of weeks – it’s called Christmas! More details can be found here It would be great to see those of you who live locally sometime over the festive Season. We have Harmony Brass Ensemble leading our Community Carol Service on Sunday 10 December at 7.00 pm and the excellent Pantaloons return on Sunday 17 December for a seasonal production of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. Less tha 50 tickets left – more details here
Clare Sands Is a young multi-instrumentalist, composer and songwriter who hails from the vibrant musical city of Cork. I first heard Clare at the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival in October 2017 playing in the Oliver Plunkett pub’ as part of scratch-band ’The Cranes’ and I was hugely impressed by Clare’s voice, song writing and musicianship. I knew immediately I’d have to invite her to Billericay so that others could enjoy her talents – I’m delighted she’s able to come so soon and plays St Mary’s on Friday 9 February with support from Dan Pierce and Southend’s Georgia Strand. Tickets are only £7 (a great stocking filler) more details here
I’m in discussion about a couple of gigs at the moment, one may see an international country superstar play!! I’m also trying to negotiate a double-header with Robert Vincent and Lauren Housley – not something they’ve done before. However, I know them both well; they know each other; I made the suggestion and they’ve agreed. Could be taking place in May – and this will be a fantastic evening. Watch this space for details,
WHAT AM I LISTENING TO?
Far too many to list over the past few months … a few recommendations for you:
- Ricky Ross: Short Stories Vol 1: A collection of new songs, well-known Deacon Blue tracks Raintown and Wages Day, and other less familiar songs from throughout his career – Ross gives a pared back, intimate piano delivery, with colour added only by strings and choir.
- Walter Trout: We’re All In This Together. His latest album of collaboration with a ‘who’s who’ of singers and musicians. Some great songs but a little too twee for me. Not his best but some of these tracks were excellent live!
- The Clubs: Funk On The Floor. Brooklyn funk power house. Driving horns, sweet beautiful lyrics, lots of bass and brass tons of soul.
- Michael McDonald: Wide Open. This is Michael’s first completely original release in nearly 17 years with 12 new songs. Few people need an introduction to the silver-haired erstwhile Doobie Brothers leader and Steely Dan affiliate. “Blessing in Disguise’ written by Beth Neilsen Chapman, culminating in a two-minute sax solo, is well worth a listen and well worth the wait.
- Chris Stapleton: From A Room Vol 1 & 2. Two albums in eight months from the CMA award winner is a mix of country, folk, blues and Southern rock and soul and reminds us why he is such a talent – he’ll surely win best album again!
- Trombone Shorty: Parking Lot Symphony. Bought this after seeing a performance on Later with Jools Holland and it is exactly what I hoped it would be. Love it.
- Peter Perrett: How The West Was Won. Great to have the distinctive vocals and witty lyrics of Perrett back with a very listenable broad Americana style bunch of songs. Already one of my faves of 2017.
- Imelda May: Life Love Flesh Blood. This release sees May treading new ground in style and appearance and boy does it pay off. An album of gutsy gut-wrenching blues and soul.
Throwback Artist I have three at the moment and they are linked by the excellent orchestration of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and they are ‘Christmas’ with Elvis Presley; ‘A Love So Beautiful’ with Roy Orbison and ‘A Brand New Me’ with Aretha Franklin. Nothing new here but classic songs given a classic makeover.
Fatea Magazine I’m not sure how many of you have heard of Fatea, an indie magazine featuring music right across the acoustic spectrum. They produce a quarterly Fatea Showcase Sessions featuring acts they’ve really enjoyed and think that more people should get the chance to hear. Download the latest session free!
With the demise of the New Crawdaddy Blues Club so few local venues are supporting live music. Do please support the gigs I promote – it all helps when looking to book more well known artists so be able to say that my gigs are regularly sold out! Blues at Barleyland still meet on Saturdays at 2.00 pm at Barleylands Social club and the Little Rabbit Barn in Colchester is also worth checking out! A friend of mine promotes gigs in the Farncombe area and you can check out those gigs at Julian Lewry
If you want to find out a bit more about events coming up at Emmanuel you can do so on our Church Family News Page
Do let me know of any gigs in your part of the world!
Thank you for supporting live music and I hope to see you again sometime in the future!
Always happy to catch up over a coffee/beer/curry – drop me a line!
May God grant you the light of Christmas, which is faith. The warmth of Christmas, which is love. The radiance of Christmas, which is purity. The righteousness of Christmas, which is justice. The belief in Christmas, which is truth. The all of Christmas, which is Christ.
As we celebrate the birth of Christ may God grant us all these things – not just at Christmas, but also throughout the New Year. Amen.