Eliza Carthy & the Wayward Band and Larkin Poe both at the Convent Club

IMG_3029Two shows, two great bands, two musical traditions and one special venue. On the face of it Eliza Carthy et al and Larkin Poe couldn’t be further apart – one with their feet standing on the solid pillars of English folk music and the other built on the foundations of the blues and rock sensibilities of the Deep South. In truth, and although both bands take their heritage and give it a firm kick from the here and now, they represent the continued line of musical tradition that runs deep in their veins. And both found an ideal venue in the Convent Club – intimate but professional, with an atmosphere and aura that seems to lift and inspire most who play there (with the possible exception of a Mr Finlay Quaye who was rightly slung off stage recently and who, let’s be honest, was always a bit of a tool).

IMG_3025Eliza Carthy is of course of royal English folk lineage (you would have to be with parents like Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson) but she has always been her own person and done it her own way, which is nothing if not admirable. Full of throat, fine of voice and ferocious of fiddle, she leads a remarkable twelve piece band (fiddles, guitars, drums, percussion, melodeons, trombone etc) whose sound is appropriately huge, impassioned and joyous.

After a week recording new material at the Convent, and shooting an accompanying video in the bucolic grounds, they felt relaxed and contented, tight enough to be mountain goat sure of step, loose enough to feel authentic and the real deal. For sure in many a place, and festivals especially, this rollicking band couldn’t fail to get you bustin’ some moves. Here in the Chapel we played the moves out inside our heads but, my moons and stars, what a blazingly bacchanalian big band folk funk thing they are!

IMG_3036Larkin Poe, hailing from Atlanta,  were new to me, fresh from supporting Elvis Costello none other, and had squeezed in a date deep in the five valleys, managing to give my otherwise sleepy Sunday eve a kick up the a$$ in the nicest of ways. They are fronted by two sisters, Rebecca and Megan Lovell, and more than ably backed up by a fine drummer and bass player.

FullSizeRenderTo tell the truth I was expecting something a bit country, probably quite solid, but like much of the standard fare you hear on the radio as you drive around southern USA. But nope, here was something altogether dirtier and grubbier, and so much the better for that. Not knowing their material of course it all sounded new to me, but I appreciated the weaving in of other bits and pieces like the old Cher song Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) and the slide into Black Betty. As the set moved on they got looser and rockier and seemed to be enjoying themselves pretty well – maybe a small little bijou venue like this was a nice change from the normal like out on the road as a rising band?

So two more outstanding ‘beat combos’ gracing the hallowed halls of the Convent. That handy seat front right sees me in it so often now, I wonder if I could have a little plaque made to warn off unwary visitors that its mine?

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Alba – Tamu Massif

Alba-EP-CoverThis guys’ music just makes me feel so good – Dave Dixon aka Tamu Massif has released his first EP, Alba via Chiverin, fine purveyor of new toons and stuff from the Bristol area. I have waxed lyrical (or the closest I can get) before when JeJeune/Selene was released a few weeks ago.

That fine track is contained here along with three more, St Isidore, A Fate Much Worse (embedded below) and Delphine; the EP can be bought for a few measly quid from Music Glue and you would verily be a fool not to get a copy.

Its all swooney guitars, samples and the most chilled of beats, but above it all is Mr Dixon’s rather special voice, distinctive in an age where so few are. The effect is dreamy, melodic, totally entrancing and sweeps me away, for its short 16 minutes, to an altogether better place.

Should this tickle your fancy then pop along to his Soundcloud site for the few extra tracks that lurk over there. I am very happy indeed that Alba has slipped though my mail box, it is quite, quite blissful – all power to Mr Dixon and here’s hoping more of this sort of delight won’t be too long in coming.


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River – Daniel Bachman

a0872409397_10Getting to know Bachman’s latest, very fine, album several miles above the Arabian Sea feels both an odd thing and at the same time, strangely appropriate.

Throughout his releases so far there has been this running parallel with music from seemingly unconnected places. Of course at its heart is the uncompromising and glorious sound of the Deep South but this sits alongside music from equally identifiable and  special histories. Here is music that manages to transcend any one category and highlights the unexpected similarities of music from wholly different cultures .

River is released via the wonderful Three Lobed Recordings organisation and the river in question here is the Rappahannock that runs from the Blue Ridge mountains to Chesapeake Bay on the east coast. The opening, and wonderfully extended, track Won’t You Cross Over To That Other Shore, manages to blend the South with Indian Raga and Spanish flamenco and that deep drone bass note; growing, turning and developing into a thing all of its own, a remarkable piece.

The next two shorter tracks – Levee (a Jack Rose song) with all its slide chords and picked melodies is so redolent of a countryside I have never seen but feel like I have always known, from countless movies and travelogs; and Farnham (by William Moore) a brief pastoral piece you feel you should know from some race memory; they both set you up for Song for the Setting Sun parts I and II.

These two tracks are a rather joyous affair made up really of a number of shorter, different but connecting stanzas, all showing off the disarming ease that Bachman has with his extraordinary playing.

Old Country Rock couldn’t be more like its says in its title if it tried, and the closer track, a reprise of the opening track, creates a closing loop to the album, making it a circle, a whole and rounded piece.

Perhaps Bachman’s most complete and satisfying set set yet (though all are more than worthy of attention) his playing is ever more assured and purposeful and the fact that it was recorded over one single day and hasn’t been meddled with, no tweaks, no over-dubs, means its authenticity is complete, an honest and heartfelt suite all the more right for the sounds and noises that others may have stripped out in post production. Bachmans first ‘proper’ studio effort, the recording is wonderful and intimate,  thing of beauty, emotion and honesty.



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Dysnomia – Dawn of Midi

DOMMy first proper exposure to DOM was their opening set for the recent Nils Frahm gig in Bristol. From the opening thrum thrum of the double bass it was a mesmerising and spellbinding experience. They played this new album Dysomnia from start to finish without a break or a word to the audience – just three chaps on stage: one on keys, one on double bass and the last on drums. It has been a long time indeed since I have been so excited by a new (to me) band, the hairs on my arms fair stood up.

The music swelled and grew, collapsed like a wave breaking on sand, counter rhythms coming together like a rip tide creating an new and single wave, repeated notes that flex and bend with the slightest addition changing the whole completely.

Quite an astonishing thing to witness, a music so all consuming and absorbing, so at odds with so much other music you hear but then again so apparently right.

All the tracks on the album are named after moons, some with Greek references (as much the result of the minds of those who named them as anything else), and to be honest I have no idea why they should have chosen this as the theme for naming tracks, but it matters not.

The three chaps; Aakaash Israni on bass, Amino Belyamani on piano and Qasim Naqvi on drums, are Brooklyn based, and use North and West African rhythms to build an astonishing mix of sounds. Their own personal musical references litter the set, each identifiable in many-a place but the resultant melting pot is a wondrous thing.
The set has been my companion on two long  (uncomfortable) 10 hour plus flights and has saved me not only from dismal movies but also the mind twisting boredom of such travel. Instead I have immersed myself in these tracks, becoming familiar but still surprised at every turn. This is not easy music for sure, but it handsomely repays attention and a modicum of effort and the rewards are extensive

Another excellent addition to the Erased Tapes roster this an album of complex, intelligent music would be a valuable addition to anyone’s music library – but should you get a chance to see them live then go! it is even more astonishing to hear music like this being performed – MOD are a fascinating and compelling band indeed. Ye Gods and little fishes, this is good.


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Douglas Dare and Michael Price at the Lantern, Colston Hall

DareDouglas Dare‘s album, Whelm, has been pretty much played to death by me these last months. Certainly it doesn’t cover the jolliest of themes, as he readily recognises, but the music and lyricism is outstanding and grabbed me from the first notes. So the prospect of seeing him live and, as it turns out, his first headline show outside of London, couldn’t be missed.


Dare, and his partner in crime Fabian Prynn, managed between them to produce a captivating and mesmerising set. A live performance is naturally always a different beast and, for me, last nights bettered the now much-loved recordings. Of course the vocals were spot on and crystalline, the keyboards pin-sharp and unfailingly romantic. fabainBut the revelation was Mr Prynn (no disrespect to Mr Dare!) – ye gads his work was fine stuff, the rhythmic complexities thrown into sharp relief, a contribution that is so much more subdued on the recording. Prynn’s playing was at once delicate, subtle and a driving tour de force; hypnotic stuff.

The set itself covering all the glorious tracks from the album, each made a bit more muscular in this setting. But we were also treated to three new songs, and we were seemingly the first people, other than the two on stage, to hear them (but I suspect he says that to all the boys!). The first was called New York, another as yet untitled but based around Oedipus Rex and the third, well I have no idea, I don’t think it was burdened with a titles. All were familiar but fresh, each showing the progression you might hope for. I guess they will be trying these and others out live before they commit them to wax, but at least there is an obvious promise of new material in the not-too-distant future. Dare himself was warm and engaging in a way that perhaps you might not expect from his aesthete, austere image (I am I too harsh here?). A bit of backchat  with the crowd, a charming twang of anxiety, all endeared him to the Sunday evening crowd.

Micahel PriceAs if that wasn’t enough, the evening was opened by another of the formidable Erased Tapes roster, Michael Price, whose new album Entanglement was released not so long ago. Another pair on stage, Price was joined by cellist Peter Gregson and together, plus a little technology ‘magic’ they gave us an intoxicating mix of tracks from the new album, his previous string quartet set and the Stillness EP also released via Erased Tapes. Sandwiched in there was the wonderful Vocal cello piece, written for Gregson by Max Richter.

Boyishly rather self-effacing and a little timid, the pair were an extraordinary and slightly unexpected opener for Dare. Price’s music is at once modern and timeless, ocassionally reminiscent of the wonderful Górecki, accessible but demanding.

Two pairs of men producing fine music, both in their own ways different and distinct but united in producing music of quality and purpose, with a finesse and attention to detail so sadly lacking in many-a quarter. Glorious and affirmative stuff.

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Kris Drever & Boo Hewerdine at the Convent Club

11180395_10153288677698055_909616014_oDoing so much folk lately I feel I should rush out, buy some cordurouys and stitch on some elbow patches…. latests is the first-time-pairing-out-on-the-road thing of Kris Drever and Boo Hewerdine at my new second home, the Convent Club; the end of a short tour in support of their colloborative EP, Last Man Standing.

It hardly needs stating that they are two of the UK’s most prolific and able chaps; greedily talented and musicians of the very highest standing. Drever has long been the owner of one of my favourite voices, mellifluous and golden; with seemingly effortless and wonderful guitar work. Hewerdine too is a prodigous talent, rather under-rated perhaps for both his song-writing skills and performance, with the voice of an angel and the lugubrious face of a an under-loved bloodhound.

Another ideal duo for this most sensitive and intimate of venues, Drever opened up solo with a few sublime songs, they then joined up for a couple of toons and then Hewerdine ended the first half with a few songs of his own. Relaxed and informal, it was like having two over-gifted mates playing for you in your (rather gothic) living room, the set peppered with anecdotes they may have told a hundred times, but which none the less drew the audience in, made that connection.

11201486_10153288677348055_101383789_oHearing them together and apart drove home, for me, their commonalities and their differences. Like a musical Venn diagram you coud see and hear their common heritage points but equally their distinct and different roots. Drever with his solid caledonion folk roots, the unexpected time signatures, the unusual chord changes; Hewerdine with his disarmingly simple song structures, anchored in that very best tradition of the late sixties song-smithing. Hewerdine’s rendition of the Bee Gees, I Started A Joke, ending the first half just reinforced this point for me.

The second half contained the new songs from the EP interlaced with dry and laconic stories and commentaries. For me the instant favourite was When All The Shouting Is Over, a great little song in 7/8 time.

Along the way we were treated to others from their canon including the wonderful Capernaum and a blissful rendition of Poorest Company led by Drever and the timeless Patience of Angels from Hewerdine, made famous by his mate Eddi Reader. Wrapped up inn the encore was the brilliant Drever version of Hewerdine’s Harvest Gypsies and finally Sweet Honey in the Rock.

All in all an evening as comforting as your favourite onesie and as sparkling as a fresh cut diamond. The answer to their musings about ‘whether there is a future’ (not cosmically of course but as to these two playing and recording more) is of course a Yes, lets have a full album and come back to Gloucestershire to play it to us.


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Fabian Holland at The Convent Club

HollandIan Drury’s claim that ‘There ain’t half been some ever b*st*rds’ may not be the most flattering way to introduce a few scribbles about Fabian Holland but hopefully you get the point.

There sometimes seems to be an almost limitless supply of talent, everyplace you go is some gifted and able musician performing their heart out, reaching for the stars. The incomparable Convent Club, a mere stones throw from home, is getting more than its fair share of them through their splendid doors.

Tonight, though, the impeccable sound system of the Chapel resounded to the uncommon talent that is Fabian Holland. An accomplished and remarkable guitarist he is blessed with a fine voice and songwriting ability and if that wasn’t enough he has admirable floppy hair…. gah damn the young and all their, erm, youth… Nurse, the screens please, I’m getting off the point.

Holland 2Holland was accompanied by almost equally talented drummer who not only played with great sensitivity but can do a fine harmony and acts as driver/chauffeur as well. Fred Claridge (for it is he) also plays with the likes of Blair Dunlop and so is no stranger to the Convent.

Classically trained, brought up on blues by his Pa, a once-pupil of Eric Roche (with a beautiful rendition of Angel  in the set), played electric in bands and now firmly in that alt folk song writer mould, Holland seems to have squeezed a fair few things into his tender years. Truth be told, and not surprisingly, you can find echoes of all these elements in his quite startling playing. The rare fluency, technique and passion is perhaps the first (if not only) thing that marks him out from the busy throng that is the folk scene.

But so too does his songwriting which stands up effortlessly with the songs of others that are woven throughout tonight’s  90 minute set. His songs are inspired by the personal and reflective – the geese he sees from his narrow boat, his Grandfathers old tobacco tin, the people who live around him in the river (It was slightly ironic that I found myself tweeting, albeit about him, as he sung Four Inch Screen about our inability to live much beyond our electronic devices…. Oh well). His songs naturally have the familiar construct of the traditional but with a modernity and currency, both in form and delivery, that ensure that they are no mere pastiche, not backward looking.

Holland 3The Convent show was almost at the end of a short run of shows around the country, running up to the release by Rooksmere Records on April 27 of his new, second album, A Day Like Tomorrow. The new album is indeed a fine thing, already getting well deserved plaudits from none other than the Telegraph with a four star review.

Matt from the Convent said this was one of his most eagerly await gigs in the Chapel, and now I can see why. Holland, together with Betty and Bertha his guitars (oh, and Fred too), gave us an eve of remarkable music, played with a proficiency, skill and passion that would be hard to beat. A ‘clever b*st*rd’ if ever there was one…

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