Saturday, 31 January 2015

Live in 2015: Amy Wadge & Luke Jackson - at the Pontardawe Arts Centre on Friday 30th January 2015

As Amy stated when she came onto the stage - it's a generation thing. 

Amy Wadge, the singer /songwriter is about to hit the big 40. While Luke Jackson has just about reached his 20s.
They've got together to perform for this short tour and it beautifully highlights the strengths and depths of talent of these two remarkable songwriters.

Up first is Amy, with a set highlighting various songs from her career. Now concentrating on songwriting rather than full scale touring, Amy shows no sign of complacency and clearly enjoys her time back here playing in Wales, which she mentioned several times to great applause.

As Amy stated earlier in the set, she now concentrates on songwriting and has collaborated with many artists - and one with spectacular results.

Amy then explained about her connection with a young Suffolk lad who was sent to see her to write some songs back in 2010. This resulted in an EP called, Songs I Wrote With Amy - the lad in question, Ed Sheeran.

Great things are often unforseen, so it transpired that Ed had contacted Amy about writing another song - his album X had been written and following his writing session with Amy he decided to add this new song to the album. It turned out to be Thinking Out Loud.
And on the day of this gig it is currently at number 2 in the USA Billboard charts.
This tour will also have a break next week - while Amy attends The Grammys.

Amy then gave us her interpretation of the song - which I have to say was even better than Ed's version. Sorry Ed.

Swtiching from acoustic guitar to piano, Amy gives us touching songs such as Scream and Rainbow.

Amy asked Luke on stage to join her on the song Dance With Me - which she performs as part of her duo with Pete Riley

I've been waiting to see Luke ever since he released his first album, More Than Boys back in 2012. This debut release showed a remarkable maturity in both songwriting and performance and his follow up, Fumes & Faith in 2014 showed a stratospheric growth in this young man's talent - and found it's way easily into my albums of 2014.

As Luke took to the stage and opened the set with Father's Footsteps from Fumes & Faith you could feel the surprise of the audience as that glorious voice was released as clear as a bell.

Luke has an incredible voice that you would not associate with such a fresh faced young man. I knew he sounded astonishing on record but could he pull it off live? You bet your life he could.

This was further revealed as he did an acapella version of Sam Cooke's A Change Is Gonna Come.
In my album review I stated that Luke sounds as if he should have come from the Southern States of the USA - the land of the Delta Blues - not from Canterbury, England.

With a set that is very much based on the Fumes & Faith album, next to be showcased was the delicious Father & Son. How a young man can sound so world weary and experienced at such a young age still astounds me - even more so live.

Recently, Luke has teamed up with Connor Downs & Andy Sharp on Bass & Drums to form the Luke Jackson Trio - their first release is the song Misspent Youth and Luke gave us his interpretation of his new song. And it is excellent folks and bodes well for the new EP. 
It was nice to see Luke break into a new direction, like his equally talented contemporary Blair Dunlop, and I hope to see this develop as a long term side project.

It is sobering to think that I will probably be stardust in the sky by the time Luke gets into his stride in his 40s & 50s - but it's good to know that his talent will have the opportunity to grow.

With songs such as Out Of Time, Answers Have Gone and Ghost At The Crossroads, Luke shows just what exceptional skills he has as a songwriter and guitarist, as well as a captivating performer.

Luke completed his set with a blistering version of Sister which was spell binding.

The whole set just flew by. If the audience had nor realised before, they certainly knew now that they had witnessed a truly exceptional talent - and I think they did, as Luke was doing brisk business on the merch stand after the show.

As one extra special surprise - Amy & Luke came back for a very special first time performance of a medley which started out as a beautiful performance of Ain't No Sunshine and morphed into Seventeen and All Along The Watchtower. Just Brilliant.

If you get a chance to see either Amy or Luke live then you should get your tickets ASAP. You wouldn't want to miss them - trust me.

Twitter - @wadge

Twitter - @lukepauljackson

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

New To Me: Kenneth J Nash - The Fall Of Eden

Although out at the end of 2014 - Kenneth J Nash's The Fall Of Eden becomes my second essential listen of 2015.

It grabbed me right from the first listen and has not let me go since. It is on constant repeat on my mp3 player and in the car on cd.

Having been on the music scene for quite a few years, I had not heard of Kenneth until I discovered the album. So it goes to show that even someone who listens to as much music as I do can still be surprised at who is out there plying their trade on the UK music circuit.

Firstly, let me say, that although the album sounds fine on download (and Spotify) it sounds phenomenal on CD - so if you're tempted to get a copy - which you must - get the CD version (direct from Ken via his website) - you'll be glad you did. Oh, what a sound vinyl version would produce.

The album starts with a small drone of what appears to be an amplifier and a gorgeous acoustic instrumental opener called Eden - this small instrumental track sets the tone for what is to come on the rest of the album. Guitars and an accordian float the track into the first song of the album Slow Burn. Then Ken comes in with his deep, rich voice. Sounding world weary and laden, his smoky burr warms like a whisky on a cold night.

Fran Taylor's backing vocals give the song that eerie feminine aspect that recurs throughout the album. It is a beautiful colour that is both unexpected and is integral in what Ken and his musicians are trying to convey.

Carol Ann comes next, introduced by some beautiful acoustic guitar work and some really gorgeous tuned percussion. It's here you can really hear the love that Ken has put into the production. Clear as a bell, indeed.

The album is very much an acoustic based experience with acoustic bass, harmonica, fiddle, cello, mandolin, harp and accordion supplemented intelligently by the electric guitars & keyboards.

I don't really want to dissect what I read into the lyrics but fair to say that they are about love & loss, relationships, rebirth and hope. You will make of them what you will. I'm sure you can find experiences of your own to reflect what Ken is trying to say in these songs.

With woodwind and cello to the fore, the track Take Me Home calls to mind Nick Drake. 
I think that the 'Englishness' of the album is something that resonates and indeed attracts.

One of the aspects that I love most about the album is the decision to use natural sounds to help paint the sound pictures.
This can be seen in the track St Mary's Heart which is introduced and closed by the peals of the bells of St Mary's Church in Rushden. It's a gorgeous song with an almost underlying blusey feel beneath the acoustic guitar and upright bass. And once again sterling vocals by Fran Taylor.

The key track for me on The Fall Of Eden is the 8.24 minute The Way She Moved. We have already been given an appetizer with St Mary's Heart and The Way.. just takes it up a notch in emotional intensity, widescreen but intimate production and performance. It is the best song I have heard so far in 2015 and is a real tour-de-force.
Opening with the buzz of an amplifier the track builds from a haunting electric guitar arpeggio into a gloriously understated, hymnic song. It's almost a tone poem. Ken delivers the vocal like he is reading poetry, an almost spoken, whispering hush. The song fades beautifully into a cello and acoustic guitar motif which is then overtaken by the sounds of crashing waves upon a shore. Only to be ressurected into a simple harp, accordion and female vocal as those waves continue to crash. It's SO moving.

Following the songs Come Show Me Your Love and Strong - we are taken by a small instrumental piece, The Fall Of Eden (i) into the albums closing track The Fall Of Eden (ii).

The title track is another beautifully realised song. Acoustic guitars, harp and keyboards - and I won't spoil the surprise of the final moments of the album. Such a stunningly simple and beautiful touch. Very much in the same vein as Jones' To The Bone album closer.

The Fall Of Eden is a beautiful, beguiling record that draws you in by it's delicacy and honesty. It has certainly set the bar high for the rest of my 2015 listening.

Totally essential in your collection.

Twitter - @Kennethjnash

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Live in 2015: Julian Cope - at The Globe, Cardiff on Saturday 24th January 2015

'It's about time'. That's me describing the fact that I have not seen Julian Cope live, ever. Julian is one of those artists who I just haven't crossed paths with despite my liking his music from day one.
From those early Teardrop Explodes albums through his varied and eclectic solo career - he is always an interesting man.

I did not catch the name of the support artist who played half an hour of instrumental guitar music driven by effects pedals and feedback. Not my cup of tea but I'm sure somebody appreciated his efforts.

Julian took to the stage armed with 3 acoustic guitars and a couple of pedals including a Wah Wah. Oddly enough he had a Fender 12 string which was strung as a six string.

But he played a very strong set which plucked songs from throughout his industrious career.
Julian is one of life's true eccentrics and he didn't disappoint tonight as he regaled us with stories of his life in music and even his antiquarian pursuits.

You kind of knew what to expect when the opening song is called I'm Living In The Room They Found Saddam In.

He had family in the audience tonight - yes, he IS Welsh, as he was born in Wales - and his banter with the audience is fun and entertaining - as long as you're not easily offended on the language front.

He worked his way enthusiastically through songs such as Cromwell In Ireland and Psychedelic Revolution which are featured in his recently released retrospective Trip Advizer.

Although the exquisitely titled A Liver In Hartlepool (an inversion of Pete Wylie's A Heart In Liverpool) is a highlight not included on the new CD.

There were quite a few die hard fans there in the audience who sang every word to every song, and he sung quite a few.

He commented on how The Teardrop Explodes second album (Wilder) was not well received - well, for me it was one of the best albums of the 80s - but when he sang Culture Bunker I think the audience let him know what they thought. He was wrong.

Highlights for me included terrific versions of The Greatness & Perfection Of Love

and a great version of Sunspots where he told an entertaining story of the album Fried, Japanese release.

At one point during the show - a guy approached the stage with what he said were bones of the Newport Charterists - a very odd thing indeed - and rattled them along to the music for the rest of the evening. Only at a Julian Cope gig, I guess.

Julian then described his search for an Xmas song and about a song he wrote 'having a go' at various infamous characters in history. A version of it is below, but beware - it's not for the faint hearted.

Julian is also an author and poet and when a member of the audience ran to the front to present him with one of his books to sign - it did it right there and then on stage.

A person who handed him a CD wasn't so lucky as he put his foot through it and launched it.

Julian then read out a peace of his latest prose on stage to thunderous applause - only in Wales, maybe.

While preparing for this dig and digging out some of the older albums I'd forgotten what an excellent singer/songwriter Julian actually is. He's so varied and experimental in some places in his career but still has an ear for a tune.

He encores with Robert Mitchum (the song, obviously) and a show stopping version of Treason from the first Teardrop Explodes album, Kilimanjaro. Which he said he hadn't played for a while.

If only he had played world Shut Your Mouth then for me it would have been the perfect gig.

A triumphant return to the land of his birth and another chance to see that he's a spirit we should cherish. A true and unique performer.

Globe videos come from his 2011 visit and are ere to just give a flavour of the performance.

Twitter - @HeadHeritage

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

New To Me: King and Queen Of Sorry

I thought to start off 2015 I'd highlight something new that has come to my attention.

The King And Queen Of Sorry

Starting off as a duo back in 2012 - Kathryn Marsh (Vocals) and Rhod Williams (Guitar) started off playing a heady mix of acoustic pop, folk and Americana. 

Since those early days the band has expanded into a 5 piece which now includes Paul Rimmer (Percussion, guitar & Backing vocals) - Giz Davies (Piano, Guitar & Backing vocals) and Andy Davies (Bass).

They have just released their debut album. And a lovely thing it is, too.

Comprising of twelve tracks, their eponymous debut covers all the bases described above.

It opens with Open Door which kicks off the whole proceedings with a classy sway of Americana tinged folk/harmony.

How Long Is Forever continues the laid back feel with it's Laurel Canyon leanings with lovely harmonies and Kathryn's strong vocals to the fore.

Other highlights on this impressive debut include the piano led ballad World On Fire which brings to mind those Wilson sisters from the band Heart.

Traffic Lights with it's acoustic guitar and piano backing sounds like a folky Fleetwood Mac - not a bad thing in this man's book.

If you happen to be a fan of bands such as Zervas & Pepper then you WILL find music on this album you'll enjoy.

The album concludes with the lovely Sail Away, which again brings together some lovely piano and acoustic guitar and glorious harmonies.

All 12 tracks are worthy of a place on the album.

So, why not make this your first purchase of 2015 - if you like acoustic folk rock then you'll enjoy this album.

The album can be downloaded here

or through Amazon & iTunes

or contact the band if you'd like the cd version - you can get them via Facebook

Twitter - @KingAndQueenOfS