Three Minute Heroes Comes Backs to the Belgrade Theater Coventry

3minuteheros

Until 25th October, catch the amazing Three Minute Heroes directed and written by Bob Eaton.

Our team of reporters were present on the opening night to witness the performance of the homegrown story which is now become The 2 Tone Musical ‘Three Minute Heroes’

“1979 was the year it all changed for the city of Coventry: the press and, more importantly, the record-buying public took to the first 2 Tone record in the masses.“

The story begins with five local heroes as they bond, fight, love and play their way through the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Relive those heady days if you were there the first time around and, if you weren’t, experience for yourselves why 2 Tone really put Coventry on the map. From http://www.belgrade.co.uk/event/three-minute-heroes (9/10/14 14:03).

The whole musical was focused on war and most importantly on racism that had to be stopped.

The introduction song was amazing, as it foreshadowed the rest of the play and gave us more illumination about what happened in 1971. People were laughing, whistling, shouting and some even danced along, which created an marvelous atmosphere.

Inspired by the music of The Selecter, The Specials and the 2 Tone scene,Three Minute Heroes is an affectionate tribute that was enormously successful when first produced by the Belgrade back in 2000. From http://www.belgrade.co.uk/event/three-minute-heroes (9/10/14 – 14:05)

The main actors were:

Joseph Eaton-Kent, Elizah Jackson, Sheldon Green, Connor John Nolan and Sarah Workman.

The play was 3h and 45 min long with an interval that lasted for 30 min.

Where to get tickets?

Saturday 4 – Saturday 25 October 2014

Presented at Belgrade Main stage

Tickets: £8.50 – £20.75 Concessions £8.50 – £18.75 which can be purchased at Belgrade Theater and online at http://www.belgrade.co.uk/event/three-minute-heroes

Authors:

Agnese Bogdanova and Akshita Sharma

CD Review – The Lament of the Black Sheep

Ange Hardy 4

Ange Hardy

Ange Hardy 3

 

CD Review by @autumnrosewell

The Lament of the Black Sheep

Ange Hardy 1

You don’t need to live in the world of English folk music for very long before being confronted by someone with an aggressively-protested view that nothing but our old, traditional songs has any right to be classed as folk.  Ange Hardy’s new album, The Lament of the Black Sheep, is a collection of her own original works that effectively shatters this precious, pompous point of view and leaves it lying in shards all over the landscape. With enormous confidence and knife-sharp skill, Ange Hardy asserts the cultural importance of newly-written folk songs with an album that is wondrously beautiful, full of fire and has the pounding heart of an intensely lived rural life. Each is a new work of vibrant storytelling that is instantly recognisable as folk music in the best and most deeply English style.

Ange Hardy has a glorious voice that is as homely, warm and womanly as freshly baked honey cake. It is a voice that could have been crafted specifically for folk songs; sometimes it is soft and earthy and other times it churns and crackles like salted sea air, as the song demands.  In the opening track, The Bow to The Sailor she strides in, head held high, and storms out a song of pride in work and the compulsion of the call to the sea; it is a song and a voice that could truly rise above the four winds. Check out her video of the track here: http://www.angehardy.com/video

After the storm we are lulled by the very sweet melancholy of the title track, The Lament of the Black Sheep, which sees our fluffy nursery rhyme sheep left all cold and alone having given away the only things he owns. It’s a wonderful opening to a fascinating collection of songs. If we take continuity to be one of the important factors in defining a folk song, then there is continuity here in abundance. Although they are newly told, these are the stories that have always been part of the English imagination: tales of running away (The Daring Lassie), of murders and hauntings (The Young Librarian), the pride of working the land (The Tilling Bird), partings (The Sailor’s Farewell), poaching (The Wanting Wife) false lovers (The Foolish Heir), lost travellers (The Lost Soul) and of beautiful but dozy young girls (The Wool Gatherer).  Through her songs, we get to meet a lovely woman whose personality shines through as witty, sincere and engaging. As a teller of tales she stands very tall beside other folk musicians; story after story can be savoured simply for the pleasure of a good tale well told in song.

Ange Hardy 2

 

These narrative tales slink quietly under the doors and into the private lives of the people loving and working, dreaming and dying in the countryside of England. However, I suspect that there is something more interesting, and just a little more rebellious, going on underneath. The narrative voice and style sooths you into assuming that you listening to some nice, safe traditional songs, beautifully wrapped in a warm English glow with centuries of tradition behind them.  But after a little while a very small, and rather pleasing sense of unease creeps in and whispers quietly that all is not quite as comfortably distant as these classically-styled songs of our landscape might suggest. Difference is that, however wildly traditionalists protest that the old songs still reflect our lives now, many of them do not now reflect real life as such, but a stylized, once-angry and romanticised view where highwaymen and smugglers are refashioned as heroes, the worst experiences of press-ganging are all forced into one narrative, and songs of shepherds and shepherdesses were written and now sung by people who were not there at the time and have only a chocolate box view of a pastoral life –  but The Lament of the Black Sheep is based on real life. Ange Hardy pours her own experiences, very personal memories and private thoughts into these songs and still somehow creates something that flawlessly embodies ‘folk’. In fact she does it so perfectly that more than once I wondered if this wasn’t intended as a kind of satirical illusion, where the folk stories we think we know are reversed and our nursery tales are retold from the black sheep’s point of view; where a song could be a pretty serenade – or it might just be a song about a chicken; and in which comely girls are splattered with mud and manure rather than stolen and whisked off to fairyland. But having listened many times, and tumbled it over in my mind, I do not this that this is anything as disrespectful as parody of folk. I think instead that Ange Hardy is someone who recognises intuitively the fine nuances of our folkloric tradition, complete with its tendency to slapstick humour, preference for romance, and its eye for the bizarre, that she is able to conjure up and capture the puckish little spirit that flickers in all our old folk songs and give it new life in her own work.

You can listen to tracks from the album and download them on her SoundCloud site: https://soundcloud.com/angehardy

To say that an artist has the ability to produce a piece that is timeless and sounds as if it could have been written hundreds of years ago, is a well-worn compliment and is not usually deserved, but here it is justified. There is no doubt of her commitment to the ideals of folk but, armed with her own often dramatic and painful experience of rural life, she has clearly rejected the whimsy and sentimentality that often goes with the creation of something ‘in the folk tradition’. Her harmonies are impressive multi-storey structures like delicate, tiered church spires carved and embellished in sparkly music rather than cold stone. However, she is such a fine architect that I would be amazed if she is content in her future with only this most classical of styles. I think she has the talent, the feeling for powerful, theatrical narrative and the force of intelligence to be a shape-shifter.  Like those denizens of our island folklore who can change effortlessly from maidens into swans, wolves, hares or the strange dark-eyed selkie-folk, I would not be in the least surprised if for Ange Hardy’s next album we were handed something in a different form, and not a lesser creation for it. Ange Hardy seems very likely now to become a towering talent of our folk scene with a huge and broad repertoire.

Ange Hardy 4

There is something autumnal about this collection of songs. Maybe it is just the warmth of Ange Hardy’s voice which shimmers in every shade of autumn, but I think it is more than that. There is depth and shadow to every story that makes me think of that turning point in the year when the silhouettes soften, the still-warm nights start to draw in and colours change from the bleached-out shades of high summer into deep reds, golds and earthy browns. Her landscape reminds me of the work of artist Arthur Rackham, whose streams of inky colour and fine, undulating lines form a brooding countryside with twisted oaks, looming seascapes and a parade of characters that range from the ethereal to the comic.

The Lament of the Black Sheep seems to be not a lament so much as an explosion of joy and appreciation of the folklore of English land and sea. It will certainly please the traditionalists within the folk community; in terms of creating a folk album worthy of the praise of Cecil Sharp House, Ange Hardy doesn’t put a toe out of line. But she does leave you with the impression that if she wanted to she could dismantle the genre, spread it in pieces all over the floor, and then put it back together again in an entirely new way, should she wish to. To just describe Ange Hardy as a traditional folk singer would be to over-look something much more important.  I would not say that her work is about preserving folk traditions as much as about acknowledging our debt to them, but then allowing them to do what folk stories, songs and ballads have always done – to change, to absorb additions and to remain alive. Folk music should be just what this album is: a chattering, fast-flowing river with tributaries, small brooks to paddle in, crashing waterfalls and rocky beaches that gape at the wide, wide sea. For those who want to fence it off and preserve it, it will become only a stagnant pool.

The Lament of the Black Sheep really is a very fine piece of work, and enormously satisfying. The album is a perfect embodiment of everything that is fascinating and alive about the lore of this land, and a far better thesis on the importance of folk lore and folk music than I could ever write in mere words.

You can buy the album, find links to more information about performances and read about Ange Hardy’s background in her own words on her excellent website: http://www.angehardy.com/

Follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/angehardymusic?fref=ts and on Twitter @AngeHardyMusic

CD Review – Moment by Mark Chadwick

Mark Chardwick

Mark Chardwick

Sometimes I listen to a new album and it sets me off on a train of thought, not about music but about politics and passion and the great givens of humanity. It doesn’t happen too often but when it does I end up wanting to write something that reads more like a history lecture than a CD review.

I’m listening to new work, a solo album, from Mark Chadwick, vocal lead and guitarist with The Levellers. The album is called Moment, and is the culmination of two years of fairly introspective song-writing and contemplation about the role that both alcohol and addiction play in our lives – and my train of thought is this:

There are several huge foundation stones on which our culture is built; one is certainly religion and belief; you cannot truly understand Shakespeare, Tolkien or Blake for example, if you don’t get the Christian references in their structure and language. Similarly you can’t study the glorious, kaleidoscopic paintings of Chagall if you are not prepared to learn something of Jewish thinking and folklore. I would say that beauty, attraction and romantic love form a second foundation stone (on which we can pile our greatest paintings, poetry and music); and desire for power and glory is a third (which holds up much of our beloved literature and plays). Holding all those stones in place is the very human ability to become obsessed, fascinated and totally dependent on something – addiction, in its very broadest terms. The only thing that has changed is our attitude. Today we put people into rehab, or send them to counsellors and generally view addiction as an illness, however the ancient Macedonians viewed regular drunkenness as essential to manliness, and to the medieval Christian mind it was the fault of demons or possession by ghosts.

Furthermore, drugs, alcohol and generally altered states of consciousness have been part of religious ritual since we first started to ask questions about the world. So can we really consider addiction as a human ‘fault’? There is drunkenness in the early texts of the Bible – the Jewess Judith overcomes her Assyrian oppressor by getting him drunk, apparently without incurring the wrath of God.  I’m going to risk the wrath of the church-going righteous of Middle England and say that, to those of us who observe the world as humanists or atheists, religion and power look as much like addiction as alcohol or opium.  Reliance on alcohol causes devastation to families and to individuals, all-consuming devotion to religion or desire to exercise power seems to be causing devastation across entire nations. With such a formidable persecutor as addiction, it seems both fitting and oddly healthy to choose it as a muse with whom to explore the world. And, standing firmly on those huge foundation stones, that is exactly what Mark Chadwick has done through his new album, Moment.

 

Mark Chadwick 1a

With an introduction like that, I’ve probably made Moment sound as if it will be both gloomy and daunting – in fact it is neither. The opening track, Waterfall, is a riot of fiddle-work spinning along behind a leaping melody. In the best traditions of The Levellers, this is a song about drinking and drunkenness, and it is as fast-paced and lively as the best craic at which you could find yourself. Mark Chadwick doesn’t ease you gently into his theme, he picks you up and flings you in, and expects you to dance. Following Waterfall is Redsky, a warm and gently-given piece of advice: the world is a puzzle that you will always have to face; if you accept that there will be no warning and no signposts you’ll get along better in this life.

Moment, the title track and Bullet both add an intense style of storytelling; they focus on the detail of just one moment’s decision or the instant captured in a photograph and examine it in close detail from several angles. The lyrics are so forthright and the perception of feeling is so vivid that these moments seem to be laid before you naked and unapologetic, not for you to judge, just for you to observe and accept that this world you live in is indeed a puzzling one.

As the album goes on, we seem to home in more and more closely on how humans behave in the grip of addiction, grief or in the darkest moments of the night. These are songs in which the lives of alcoholic neighbours are observed (Christian and Pam), we are invited to enjoy the strange sort of freedom you have in being always an outsider (Killing Time) and made uncomfortably aware that at their most intense, extremes of emotion seem to become detached and hover in front of you like a separate entity (Air).  Finally the album slips quietly into the night, and turns its attention to the way that worries and tiny little memories are magnified by the darkness and come to dominate our thoughts (Last Night); it seems that night time too, even the cool reviving night, can be a kind of drug that alters our perception of the world.

In terms of sheer artistry, Mark Chadwick remains ahead of the game and has sensibly stayed well out of the way of the promoters who would buff him up and polish him until he and his work were unrecognisable. And that’s what makes this music important. This album manages to be both political and very personal, but above all it is scrupulously honest. If I were again a teenager trying to decide if music was important to the world, then this is the kind of work that would tip the balance and confirm my view that music is vital to life.

[Download the album here: http://www.markchadwick.org/music/]

Mark Chadwick 3a

When you have a good composition performed by accomplished musicians it renders the veneer of studio perfection both unnecessary and undesirable.  What speaks to you in this album is an urgent and forthright voice that wants to talk of subjects from which many would prefer to turn their head away. Mark Chadwick is clearly an artist who operates only on his own terms; and one of those terms is to be honest and non-judgemental in the face of what our society thinks degrades us.

Whether we find it a comfortable thought or not, we human beings have always seen some value in altering our perception of the world – whether that is by creating stories to explain what we do not understand and becoming convinced of their reality, or whether it is by consuming chemicals that change the way the world looks to us and then being unable and unwilling to return and look at it once more as it really is. The human tendency towards addiction is nothing new, indeed it likely that it has been around as long as we have, and will seize a hold of a King as easily as it will grab a commoner. With unflinching directness, Moment encapsulates all of that and establishes Mark Chadwick as a musician capable of voicing an opinion without making a judgement, and of creating music that people will love, while remaining unconventional. Rare combinations indeed.

Link to lyrics, tour dates and background information here: http://www.markchadwick.org

The Beautiful Days festival is now sold out, but you can read catch up on news and photos here: http://www.beautifuldays.org/

Review by @autumnrosewell

About to see Scooby Doo ‘The Mystery of the Pyramid’ at The Belgrade Theatre

AC5483DB-56EC-4491-A19F-FAFB23AAF8F3-882-0000007AAC572D4F

Feature from The Radio Warwickshire ‘Mini Reporters’ Find out about Scooby Doo LIVE at The Belgrade Theatre Coventry.

The classic cartoon Scooby-Doo comes to life with spooky mystery and fun in the Pyramids.

Scooby-Doo, Shaggy, Fred, Velma and Daphne arrive in Egypt where they must solve the mystery of Pharaoh Hatchepsout’s Pyramid.

Easy, you say… but not if the gang has to deal with mysterious mummies plus the wrath of the Pharaoh who will transform anyone who dares approach the pyramid into stone!

For more details http://www.belgrade.co.uk/event/scooby-doo-the-mystery-of-the-pyramid

Listen to the interview again at http://www.radiowarks.com @radiowarks
Reporter Radio Warwickshire Mini Reporters.

Warwick Castle Proms 2014 Feature by Radio Warwickshire

proms2

Listen to the feature recorded at this years Warwick Castle Proms as we celebrate Warwick Castle’s 1,100th birthday.
With popular conductor Jae Alexander returning alingside The City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, who performed popular classics, film themes and all the flag waving favourites with ‘the Last Night Of The Proms’.

Also featured this year a very special and emotional sequence of music and songs paying tribute to the heroes of D-Day, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings.

All topped off with a fire work display and an original World War 2 Spitfire in the skies over Warwick.

Listen to interviews with Steven Madock, Chief Executive of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Andrew Wyke, Producer of Warwick Castle Proms. Jenny Moonie, John Hudson & conductor Jae Alexander.

Listen to the interview again at http://www.radiowarks.com
Reporter @hewittabbey1 @jenniebollands
Producer @LianeKate
(Image from Warwick Castle Promotional material).

Femme Fatales of Folk – Folkstock Records

Folkstock0 CD image

Femme Fatales of Folk – Folkstock Records

Review by @autumnrosewell

Folkstock0 CD image

One of my personal bug-bears – no it is more than a bug-bear, it is a real anxiety – is about what the music industry encourages in female artists. I have lost count of the number of (particularly very young) women who send me tracks in which they show very little vocal confidence, and which are invariably accompanied by notes explaining that they sound ‘like a young Joni Mitchell/Odetta/Suzanne Vega’ (etc etc) and photographs of themselves performing at gigs wearing apparently as few clothes as possible, even mid-winter, as if exposing flesh distracts from the fact that they aspire to sound only like someone else. Why do so many women do this? I cannot think of one male singer who, when sending me their material, has felt the need to compare himself to another artist. Who is it that is telling these women that they need to look and sound a certain way to be their best and to be appreciated? I think this is a habit that we need to get out of in the world of acoustic song-writing and performing. I’d dearly love to have the majority of women artists sending me notes that say ‘Have a listen to this – I sound just like me and like no one else at all’. As Femme Fatales of Folk, Folkstock’s new compilation of work by female artists shows, it is not only perfectly possible to be female and original, but the sheer variety of what is possible, beautiful and thrilling means that comparisons are unnecessary and unhelpful. http://www.folkstockartsfoundation.com/folkstock-records/

The opening track, The Witch of Walkern, from Kelly Oliver is an original piece in a satisfyingly folkloric tradition, drawing on the events of the 18th century trial of Jane Wenham, the last woman to be tried formally for witchcraft in England. The true horror of the tale is powerfully conveyed and somehow made all the more chilling when spoken through Kelly Oliver’s light, bright and very feminine voice. As a piece of folk storytelling, it is animated and full of drama. Kelly Oliver’s variations of pace and volume add to the tale and show her to be more than a musician; she is a performer with links to a tradition that goes back to the great storytellers of our oldest European tales.   http://www.kellyoliver.com

Folkstock1 Kelly Oliver

As if to prove and announce upfront that this album will be diverse and challenging, Kelly Oliver is followed by the rich, warm tones of Marina Florance who grabs us and pulls us down into the genuine tenderness and grief of loss through war with her track The Path He Chose. While her voice is certainly warm, it is also slightly sultry, and the result is something like a storm cloud in the heat of summer that hovers and in which lurks the threat of thunder. With hints of country, and the reassuringly constant guitar work that holds its nerve in the background, Marina Florance tells us a story that, with war still glaring at us through our newspapers and television screens, is and always will be, a mother’s greatest fear. http://www.marinaflorance.com

Folkstock2 Marina Florance

In response to Marina Florance’s storm cloud, Zoe Wren has a voice like the firmament: a beautiful voice that it is very clear and shivers with silver.  Not much about her track sounds ‘country’ to me as her text describes; I think it is far more interesting than that. The first thing that leaped to my mind when I first heard 45 Fever from Zoe Wren was the treasures found at Hissarlik, the Jewels of Helen of Troy, that finely-woven filigree gold, embedded with lapis lazuli and balanced so finely together that they tremble slightly in their museum case as you walk past. It’s a wonderful voice and she wears it like the jewels of a queen. http://www.zoewren.com/

Folkstock3 Zoe Wren

There are a handful of artists that I’ve met on my folk travels for whom I will always make space in a broadcast. I gave a little squeak of delight when I saw a track from Daria Kulesh listed on Femme Fatales of Folk.  Her haunting eastern European and Russian influence, full of folklore and magic grips me every time. Fake Wonderland is like a deep forest of music and tangled fairy tales; the temptation to wander in and get lost is irresistible. I’d be prepared to create an entire show on a particular theme if it meant I would have an excuse to broadcast a new song from Daria Kulesh and her group, KARA http://www.daria-kulesh.co.uk

Folkstock4 Daria Kulesh

I am listening to these tracks in what I call my ‘music room’. That sounds very grand, but actually it is just a room with a nice acoustic quality where we keep my husband’s cherished baby Grand piano and my son’s drum kit. Daria Kulesh’s crimson rose of a voice is followed by Kaity Rae’s song, It Is. Kaity Rae’s voice has a different quality altogether, it sounds somehow like your own private thoughts; and I think that there must be a technical reason for that because a few moments in to the track, I realised that her voice was resonating perfectly with both the piano strings and the wires under the snare drum. The whole room seemed to be responding to her voice and asking to join in. Her guitar work, with its plucks and its slides is superb too, but she allows her voice to stand tall above it and to shimmer out and touch everything. https://www.facebook.com/KaityRaeOfficial?fref=ts

Folkstock5 Kaity Rae

In Japanese music they have something that they refer to as ‘the concept of ‘ma’’ – which is the musical role played by little moments of silence between the notes or drum beats. Those little silences sparkle in Minnie Birch’s track, Wise Words. Her girly, comely voice is as bright and clipped as fresh spring rain but it is the technique with which she uses it that sets it free. To say it is disciplined would make it sound regimented, it is not that at all. Minnie Birch simply has the skills to use her voice well and let it flutter around the chords like the first butterflies of the year. http://www.minniebirch.co.uk/

Folkstock6 Minnie Birch

Roxanne de Bastion is another favourite artist, whose work I’ve broadcast before. Her work is without fail, original and hugely intelligent. Broadcasting alone doesn’t really do her justice as she is a superb live performer (not something that comes naturally to all artists). Here’s Tom with the Weather is a cuttingly political song. Roxanne de Bastion weaves careful and subtle lyrics with her own sweet voice to make a commentary, based on the works of the late Bill Hicks, that is poignant and sharp witted. http://www.roxannedebastion.com

Folkstock7 Roxanne de Bastion

In some contrast to her work in the opening track of this album, Kelly Oliver’s cover of Dougie MacLean’s Caledonia is peaceful and dreamy. For me it embodies perfectly a quality that all these tracks have; an emotional honesty that shines through and is really attractive. This is the only track in the collection that is not an original piece, but it sits well. A well-covered traditional-style folk song snuggled in and comfortable only makes a collection more appealing.

I heard early work from Helen Chinn last year and she struck me then as an artist who had a great command of who she was and what she wanted to convey through her work. I decided immediately then to put a track of hers onto a CD compilation I was curating at the time, so I’m delighted to see more of her work on Femme Fatales of Folk.  She blends a tone of quiet resentment and intensity with melodies and chords that are really lovely. Her voice has an agility that she uses well. Second Chance has a what I can only describe as a painterly quality; musical phrases and rich vocals tumble about like sumptuous pre-Raphaelite hair, painted against a perpetually moving background of rising and falling string work. The overall effect is very womanly and complicated; it curves and it sways but never does quite what you are expecting it to do.  Like the minds of all women of all time, Helen Chinn’s work churns incessantly with questions, hopes and desires. I hope very much that we’ll hear more, much more, from this artist.

Folkstock8 Helen Chinn

Of all the tracks on this album, the work of Fay Brotherhood was the one that leaped out at me and stared me down like a wild hare. This was the track that I kept going back to, that I kept thinking about and wanting to hear just one more time. She has the most supremely confident vocal ability. There is a depth of expression in her voice and a desire to be heard and to be different that stood high above, like a sentinel in this undulating landscape of songs. Blue Spiral Screams is a powerful invocation; a soaring, spiralling incantation designed to lure humans, animals and other more shadowy creatures to join her in a wild dance. There is anger here, but also some kind of devotion that cries out to gods more ancient and more powerful than that more timid deity that arrived on these shores with Saint Columbus. If Fay Brotherhood stood up to speak in one of our ancient gathering places, I think we could all expect Fire and Brimstone more deeply felt, more real and chilling than any Christian priest could manage to mumble about. https://www.facebook.com/faybrotherhoodmusic?fref=ts

Folkstock9 Fay Brotherhood

What really makes this collection of songs shine is not so much the flair of each artist as the fact that ten very different pieces have been beautifully recorded and produced; they hang together in perfect balance, like a mobile. The skill in making very different vocalists and musical styles fit together, complement each other and still to allow so much personality to flood out, cannot be overlooked when considering how to review this album.

If there is something that all these artists have in common, it is a certain subtlety of musicianship that goes with personal confidence, a clarity of voice and a fearless honesty that is unashamedly emotional. So to all other female artists out there, take some confidence from the work of Folkstock Records; please aspire to sound more like yourself with each new song because that is the only person worth sounding like.

 

Beat Bones & Alchemy by Tim Bragg

Alchemy 1

Beat Bones & Alchemy by Tim Bragg

Review by: Tamsin Rosewell, Folk Show presenter, Radio Warwickshire

Alchemy 1

If you like your music mellow, intelligent and just a little bit dark then you’ll find yourself pulled in by this collection of five original tracks from Tim Bragg. His dexterous guitar, flute and drum work (he plays all the instruments on most of the tracks) show him to be not only a highly skilled multi-instrumentalist, but a musician with an enjoyably disobedient inventiveness. While he manages, overall to stay within the comfortably familiar framework of a blues, funk or swing influenced composition, he never slips into cliché. Having said that, Tim Bragg’s music is so broadly influenced, and so highly educated, that you are constantly expectant of the unexpected, and ever-so-slightly on edge – this is a musician who would quietly turn Folk into Jazz, or introduce Reggae underneath a soaring flute.  The layering of both acoustic and digital sounds is beautifully complex and done with an enormous confidence which is both gripping and alluringly attractive.

 

Alchemy 2

The overall effect is the slight paranoia and disorientation of a very modern dream.  With its honed, sharp lyrics and rule-breaking use of musical styles, this work puts me in mind of the New Journalism style of Tom Woolfe, where you become totally saturated in the detail of a single moment or thought. This isn’t detached background folksy sort of stuff, this is deeply descriptive and challenging. But you won’t get confused or lost in this music, Bragg’s skill and knowledge of his craft will steer you comfortably home in the end

Alchemy 3

Download Beat Bones & Alchemy here: https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/timbragg16

You can link to Tim on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tim-Bragg-Music/251962077688?fref=ts

Review: Ripples by Lew Bear

Lew Bear 1

 

Lew Bear 1

Ripples by Lew Bear

Review: @AutumnRosewell

Lew Bear is a name that pops up in my social media news feed a great deal; he is performing in our pubs and folk clubs and seems to be somewhere on most of the area’s festival listings this season too. It is definitely worth grabbing a CD to review if it reflects what is going on in the live gigs of our folk scene, which is why I snapped up Ripples, the new album from Lew Bear. Lew Bear 2

We have changed the way we listen to music dramatically over the last few decades. Folk music is no longer only about music for a gathering, it is now very much broader that. Finding an audience for a folk club is increasingly difficult and not helped when our more traditional pubs are closing at a rate of 4,000, a year according to the Good Pub Guide 2014. Even for those whose music is recorded and produced to high, broadcasting standards, things are changing as music producers bemoan the fact that we listen to music in our cars, on our laptops and on our phones, and not through high-quality speakers for which the music was produced. It is helpful to have music recorded to a high standard if you have a radio show to produce, but I came to presenting with the mind of an historian, not that of a broadcaster. I would be a pretty rubbish historian if I was only interested in those few pieces of the folk genre that are polished and buffed to a high shine. I want to look a bit further and a bit deeper than the nice glossy CDs that slide onto my doormat from PR companies every day. Instead, I’ve had my eye on who is performing regularly in our clubs and pubs and at our local folk festivals. And Lew Bear is the one who leaps out at me.

Lew Bear 3aNorthamptonshire-based Lew Bear has recorded several albums:  Done in the Dark and Down at the Riverside (all the tracks on which were recorded outdoors in various lovely locations from the banks of the River Leam and Badby Woods to the grounds of St Mary’s Church in Fawsley). This latest album, Ripples, gives a nod to the waterside theme, but is otherwise a very neat and pleasing collection of well-put together, traditional folk themes. There is plenty storytelling (Merry Tom and Charlie the Crow) and the lyrics are peppered with lovely images that are both properly folksy and somehow modern (Mad Ole Girl and The Tramp).  When combined with Lew Bear’s lovely warm voice and gentle guitar work, the narrative quality of many of the songs lends a gentle bedtime story-like cosiness to the album. Musically, it is clean and uncluttered by the clamour that a rhythm section can impose on the work of a solo artist: this is one man and his guitar; where acoustic folk has come from and where it remains most appealing. Then, as if to add to the general sense of comfort and Englishness, hints of a hymn metre weave their way in and out of the collection. This doesn’t make them sound religious, it gives them the reassuring familiarity of something that is rooted deep in an English landscape. These are lovely, timeless songs that would be welcome and well received at any folk festival; judging by the festival and folk club posters of the Midlands, presumably others think so too. [Link to gig guide: http://www.lewbear.co.uk/gigs.html ]

The song that really leaped out at me was If, which is Lew Bear’s treatment of Rudyard Kipling’s well-known poem. I know from experience that there is an enormous difference between poetic metre and time signature; it is hugely difficult to take the existing work of a poet and turn it into a song that works well and maintains the pace and tone that resides already in the words alone.  If is extraordinarily well handled; the best transcription of a poem into music that I’ve heard since Jim Causley’s work on Charles Causley’s poetry.

The tracks on this album are bubbling with quiet character and are inspired by all sorts of curious and interesting things from late 19th Century poetry to The Book of Revelation, but still I was left with the feeling that Lew Bear was holding back a little. I would be delighted, and not in the least bit surprised, if his next album released a raging storm of music and lyrics. Lew Bear is perfectly capable of producing something that really crackles above the crowd; and I for one would quite like to hear this bear roar. Lew Bear 4

You can download Lew Bear’s albums and find out about gig dates through his website http://lewbear.co.uk/music.html you can also follow him on twitter @LewBearMusic and on Facebook, there are links through his website.

Thamesis, by Mishaped Pearls

Mishaped Pearls album

Mishaped Pearls album

Thamesis, by Mishaped Pearls

Reviewer: @autumnrosewell

I’ve been looking forward to this album, oh so much. For those of you who have not yet heard this group, Mishaped Pearls, I can only say that I envy you as I would love to have the pleasure and amazement of hearing them for the first time all over again.  Their sound is distinctive, beautiful and strangely dream-like. Somehow they marry dissonance with harmony, and always remain pitch perfect. They weave classical sounds into some of the oldest English folk ballads and then carefully twist the tapestry, so it looks both familiar and unfamiliar at once.  Mishaped Pearls is a seven piece London-based band, which has links all over Europe. The group is led by English songwriter Ged Flood. Flood’s skills as a composer are enormous, but he has too the advantage of being a multi-instrumentalist with a musical imagination that crashes like a wave of inspiration into the dark and dusty corners of our folk traditions. Flood entwines his musical skill around the really extraordinary voice of mezzo-soprano, Manuela Schuette; he is like a jeweller who twists and twines filigree gold to show off the blazing beauty of a single huge, lush, shining stone.

Mishaped Pears cover

Thamesis is the third album from Mishaped Pearls, a group that takes its name from a translation of the French word ‘Baroque’ which refers to the beauty of a large, irregular and imperfect pearl. We now associate the term ‘Baroque’ with the style of the 17th and 18th centuries: one of florid exuberance and dramatic expression in art. However, it was in fact used much earlier to describe a piece of music. The piece of music in question was an opera by French composer, Rameau, called Hyppolytus and Aricie, based on Racine’s Phedre. The piece startlingly did not belong to the Renaissance.  The nice, neatly structured music of the Renaissance, with its pretty, easy melodies and modes, and comfortably blending strands, was replaced in this opera by a shocking blend of constant key changes and atmospheric discords. The Baroque in Europe coincided with a new way of thinking that we now talk of as The Enlightenment, where the emphasis was placed on new ideas rather than old religious dogma, and in which humanity no longer accepted being told what and how to think, but allowed itself to rely on its own good judgement and changing tastes. Thamesis certainly shows a new way of thinking about our traditional folk sounds, and there’s not even a hint of old folk dogma. Thamesis has the beautifully irregular and exuberant combination of chords, discords, key changes and exciting, yet inharmonious sounds that set it apart from the excruciatingly boring, generic and safely unimaginative folk music of which I am sent a great deal. Thamesis would be well described as a huge, lustrous pearl of an album; its undulating, distorted form is its great beauty.

Mishaped Pearls groupAs a collection of songs, they hang together like a delicately balanced mobile; each is different in shape and texture, but when seen as a whole the structure of the album is a work of art in itself. Many are based on traditional folk ballads: Jimmy is a hauntingly beautiful rendition of a traditional folk song called Polly Vaughn, which probably dates from the late 18th Century, but hints at the much older folklore of the swan-maidens of Europe’s forests. Jimmy was the first song from this group that I heard and it struck me as being extraordinary at that first hearing, as it still does now. The shock and wonder here is Ged Flood’s instrumental work, which lurches from the grand scale and drama that I associate with film scores, to jagged chord progressions that tear through the melody like sound effects, and make a curiously beautiful backdrop for  Manuela Schuette’s sumptuous voice that rises above all that darkness and discord, and it hovers there, huge and luminous, like a Lily towering in full bloom above a tangle of brambles. Three Ravens, is as dark and cynical as our traditional folk songs get; it is also probably one of our oldest, written down in the early 17th century, but certainly far earlier in origin. Mishaped Pearls gives the song a strange, glowering musical accompaniment that brings the horror in the narrative into sharp relief.  Similarly, Six Dukes is much altered from the nursery story tone of the folksy 1969 recording, and becomes a soaring crescendo of lamentation with madrigal layers of voices, all crying out in dismay and grief as the news spreads; the strings and synths saw away underneath until the shaking lone voice of the first narrator is drowned in wave after wave of sorrow, and eventually that too is quietly washed away to sea. Ralph McTell’s First and Last Man is reimagined in The First and Last Woman, and given new life in Manuela Schuette’s beguiling and perfectly womanly voice. These traditional pieces merge themselves effortlessly with Ged Flood’s original pieces. Many of these new works weave the old themes such as water personified (Old Father Thames), or parting lovers (Cornish Girl) with distinctive melodies and vivid narrative to create an effect that is almost theatrical in its energy. This is not folk music preserved in gloopy bitumen, or conserved with pedantic historical accuracy; this is folk music that is alive but slightly ethereal, and is dark but that sparkles like a fast-moving river. The whole show is put together with intelligence and a real depth of knowledge that shows a commitment to the values of Enlightenment. Mishaped Pearls acknowledges that true beauty is both imperfect and slightly disturbing.

You can buy Thamesis from Amazon here http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00ITE10EE

Or you can download it from iTunes here https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/thamesis/id868243860

Find out more about Mishaped Pearls and about performances on their website at http://mishapedpearls.org/ and you can follow them on Facebook for updates https://www.facebook.com/MishapedPearls?fref=ts

Marek’s Camp, Supine Orchestra

Supine 2

Supine 1

Review by Tamsin Rosewell, presenter of My Folk and their Friends, Radio Warwickshire.

To the outside world there seem to be two types of folk groups: those who want to be properly folky, steeped in a rich and complex history of regional variations and traditional instruments, and those who choose to do whatever they think is interesting whether or not it is covered in the hallowed dust of Cecil Sharp House. Supine Orchestra falls unapologetically, and with little burbles of glee, into this second category. And yet it suffuses as much warmth and humanity as you would find in the best of our old songs.

Marek’s Camp is the third album from this Coventry-based group, and I love every track on it. The vocals glide from gorgeously plush in opening track Manatee – like the kind of silk velvet they don’t make any more – to the pleasingly coarse to complement the fearlessly direct lyrics of Black Funky Metal. The lyrics are a class act all by themselves; they conjure up a series of images, from the brightly coloured and comic invitation to ‘put your book down and come drinking with me’ (The Grand Union), to the warm and romantic ‘born to be caught in the pull of your Saturn eyes’ (Laces), but they are consistently very sweet and brimming with charm and affection.

There is something deeply humanist about this collection of songs. Beyond the direct comments: ‘Torch a church, it makes you feel better, Hail Satan, then blame the weather’ (Black Funky Metal), and the gently inserted Biblical references: ‘as the first arrive to cast their stone’ (Nice for Jorge), there is something essentially human and social rather than spiritual about Marek’s Camp. You won’t find ethereal folksiness here; the references are to rucksacks full of purple sweet wrappers (Bucket Full of Ordinary) and being wrapped up in a string of electric lights (Manatee).

Overall Marek’s Camp is a cheerful combination of immaturity and real class. It is lyrically attentive and musically accomplished. Supine Orchestra has a distinctive style that is completely charming. This group is producing something really rather wonderful – it is too easy for that to go unsaid, so I’m saying it. Over three albums they have made the most sustained effort, and one of the strongest claims on the current folk scene, to show what new folk music can sound like – and all without a hint that they feel that they really ought to be leafing through the archives of Cecil Sharp House. Bravo – more please.

Track List

  1. Manatee
  2. Brighton Breakfast
  3. Bluff
  4. The Grand Union
  5. Poor Bernadette
  6. Bucketful of Ordinary
  7. Black Funky Metal
  8. Nice For Jorge
  9. Carve Your Own Lovespoon
  10. Mutt Lange
  11. Laces
  12. Ayurveda Louisa

 

 

 


moseley-20141