#upthebabs

Pretty Babs haven’t been slouching since they released their debut album, Graffiti Lights, back in 2017 (I had to check then, in my head it was only last year!) – with an ever-growing gig schedule they’ve released a new EP, #upthebabs – building on their debut by adding Craig to the ranks to beef up their guitar sound.

For a bunch of fellas so young they have a mature gritty rock sound – the kind of thing Sam’s powerful voice has been literally crying out for since I first used to go see his acoustic evenings up at the Brown Cow in Mansfield. Coupled with the clear bond of friendship the four of them have, it makes for a really engaging live show.

Most recently I caught them at the always awesome Ey Up Mi Duck festival last month, and have subsequently been procrastinating about writing this review having acquired their EP there (thanks Andrew!). Oftentimes I find that my favourite live bands don’t always translate to recording – not that I don’t enjoy them, but it can lose the buzz you get from a live performance.

Not so here – clearly the band are careful to work with producers who aren’t going to smooth the edges too much when they hit the studio. Guitars snarl, bass thumps and drums crash across these five tracks, paces change and they give the perfect backing to counterpoint Sam’s voice.

The Fall opens gently before the main guitar riff kicks in joined by bass and drums, as the vocals join the guitar slows right up. There’s pace-changes in the pre-chorus leading into the chorus too before a treat of a guitar solo – the lyrics talk of lighting beacons and I suspect echoes of the horrendous political turmoil we find ourselves in at the moment. It’s a strong start!

Tumbleweed comes with an accompanying video (well, okay, it’s more of an image!) – after initial guitar it’s very percussion led with some overlaid guitar intracies. Almost hypnotic verses are pretty much driven by Brad’s drumming with building guitar and bass input before a rousing chorus kicks in. There’s a nice instrumental bridge here too showcasing pretty much everyone before the backing almost drops out but for subtle guitar and vocals – then everything’s back for a final rousing chorus. More referencing to lighting of fires too!

Blue kicks right in with vocals and guitar strums and occasional stabs, then some drum fills kick in to the full track. If there’s an underpinning of political influences in the previous tracks then here it becomes much more overt “It’s such a pity she’s a Tory girl” is the lament throughout but this is a real barnstormer of a track – you could get a good sweat on having a dance to it.

Roadrunner kicks straight in after a cymbal count in – I do think they missed a trick to have a “meep meep” in there, but maybe it’s not about a cartoon bird trying to constantly foil a not-so-wily coyote! But on listening, perhaps not the right mood to set – we have heavy chugging guitar here and empassioned vocals – definitely much heavier, with an unfeasibly catchy riff following through most of the song.

Then finishing up with with the quieter lament of Death of the Free Man, starting with deliciously intricate finger picking and heartfelt vocals, which you can sample a live rendering of below. I’d half expected it to kick in with the full band – but even as Sam’s vocals lift for the chorus the guitar picking is all that accompanies him, and I think that’s the right call for this song – and rounds off nicely the multi-facets that Pretty Babs bring to the party.

Of all the unsigned bands on the circuit I’ve grown to know and love over the last few years, I’ve said before and I’ll say again that in Pretty Babs they’re the one that I could imagine crossing over to become more mainstream – and I certainly don’t mean that as an insult, but they have such an accomplished style that you could see landing well with a more mainstream audience.

You can catch Pretty Babs at The Bodega in Nottingham on 15th June with a glittering array of amazing support acts too for the sum of just ten English pounds. It promises to be a really awesome night – I for one am looking forward to it very much. You can avail yourself of a copy of #upthebabs from the band at a gig – and presumably digital releases will follow.

Freeborn Al / 22nd May 2019 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

The adrenaline of denizen..

I’ve been looking forward to Funke and the Two Tone Baby’s new album – Denizen – ever since he’s talked about creating it.  There’s a few familar songs there from the last year or so of gigs which have evolved over time, and some new ones – and unusually we had the opportunity to hear them all live before getting home to eagerly listen to the recorded version.  Playing the last date of his tour at Bodega in Nottingham last Sunday we all crammed in to see what the fuss was about.

First up though was support act She, Robot – also known as Suzy Condrad – she took to the stage in a sparkly top behind a console of gubbins much like Funke does, and frankly she had me won over from the off.  To start a gig just up the road from where Xylophone Man used to busk (although he actually played a glockenspeil) with the said same instrument, looping it into the mic to open the set with Whose Army, was a sure fire way to win me over.

She effortlessly builds layers of sound and vocals to build an ethereal soundscape – really clever stuff, and really engaging.  Seven Bells was up next, then a Ukulele makes an appearance for Walk of Shame.  A sublime cover of Joy Division’s She’s Lost Control was up next, one of my favourite songs which always means a cover needs to tread carefully – no fear on that score, it was a compelling interpretation.  Breakdown was next, then Fragments and finally forthcoming release Brains.

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Freeborn Al / 27th April 2018 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

The Pests from the West beat the Beast from the East..

In true British fashion social and mainstream media alike was awash with perhaps rather exaggerated fears regarding the weather, casting doubt on whether the Warsop leg of The Leylines tour would happen.  It’s true some areas of the country really were hammered, but certainly North Nottinghamshire was okay, it put paid to a few acts making it, but some redrafting by Dave and some rearrangements meant a splendid day of music would definitely go ahead – with some hardy souls camping in the car park from the night before!

For our own part, both Ella and Morgan had fairly chunky distances to come – Ella and Becki drove up to mine the night before in occasionally grim conditions, with Nick and Morgan joining us in the morning in plenty of time for a sit and chill before we convoyed up to The Black Market Venue without incident – we could’ve probably squeezed into one car but it proved to come in handy later having two.  Once at the venue there was time to catch up with folk in the bar side before the main room was open.

First up were Darwin’s Rejects – we got Ella and Morgan’s stuff sorted by their stage as they struck up with Phat Bollard’s Millionnaires – I must say they were sounding the most tight I’ve seen ’em, and as a fellow box banger I did have slight envy of Rob’s cymbal/tambourine stand!  A Levellers section comprised Sell Out and then a Leylines style arrangement of Fifteen Years with the slow build up.  Back to grassroots and Ferocious Dog’s Unconditional and Headsticks Cold Grey English Skies were up next.

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Freeborn Al / 4th March 2018 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

How now, Brown Cow!

This blog post is nearly as horrendously late as I was a week ago to the Roots Acoustic Evening at the Brown Cow in Mansfield, it meant I managed to miss the host, Phil Ashmore and the first act on too, Alan Robinson – but luckily my epic day of driving got me there in time for Sam Jones.  I’ve not seen Sam in solo acoustic guise in ages, and it’s always a treat (and in truth, why I feel motivated to write a blog post more than anything, especially in this venue where I first saw him!).

So once I’d got myself loaded up and my gear out the car (chances are I wouldn’t have made the trek from home to Stevenage and then to Mansfield, but we were playing, you see, under the guise of The Carrot Spies since Kev couldn’t make it, sadly – and frankly we aren’t The Star Copiers without a full compliment of members – lucky we’ve got a gigantic list of anagrams isn’t it?

But anyway, the amazing Sam Jones was up first – he’s such a talented fella.  He was standing in for his dad, Mark, who was feeling under the weather (Sam himself complained of feeling rough too, but it didn’t bring his performance down any that I could see!).  He kicked off with Death of the Free Man, then that lovely cover of Bee’s Wing he busts out for his Mum, Kathie – who was in the crowd to enjoy it, always lovely to see!  I took to Facebook live for this as it’s one of Ella’s favourite songs too (I couldn’t resist getting Lucy in on the act!).

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Freeborn Al / 25th February 2018 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Photos, Politics

Prince of Thieves?

It feels weird not going to see Gaz Brookfield at The Maze in Nottingham – but in full band guise with his fellow Company of Thieves he was on at The Bodega this evening.  We got in to town a bit early to grab some food and meet folk in The Pit and Pendulum for some pre-gig drinks (lime and soda in my case – on driving duty – it’s all so very rock and roll!) – it was great to see so many folk out though, especially Lisa, Paul, Suzy and Bryan who I’ve not seen for a while!

By the time we ambled over to the venue over the road Chris Webb was already underway in an already well populated room – it’s a genuis move of Gaz, recruit people into your band who can also provide not one but two support acts!  I headed to take in his performance and hadn’t realised I was stood directly behind Gaz doing similar, amusing!  Meanwhile I’d become transfixed by watching how Chris strums his guitar, with his hand perpendicular to he guitar but his thumb out to pinch bass tones from the top two strings, whilst alternating picking or ‘flick’ strumming the four thinner strings.

It was mesmerising!  As I said he was underway when I went in, so the first song I picked up was called Breakfast which is from latest album Bungalow.  I’ve already mentioned the clever guitar playing, he’s a clever lyricist too – I couldn’t tell you what they were, but expect to become more au fait as I made sure to pick up a couple of his albums from the merch desk at the end of the gig!  I missed another song title, but then came Heat which had a frankly baffling array of lyrics – not just a feat of memory, but breath control too to get all those words out!  That’s also on Bungalow.

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Freeborn Al / 18th February 2018 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

Heeeeeerrrrrrrre’s Jonny!…

Friday night saw a short schlep to Derby to the very welcoming O’Dwyer’s Bar where Jonny Wallis was playing, with support from Morganella.  I had a bit of a senior moment missing the turning to their drive twice, so doing a couple of laps of the neighbourhood before finally landing.  There’s the bar, a proper old skool place where a stage was already set, and some kind of function going on in the building next door.

Jonny and Katie had already got stuff set up and sorted, and once Clan Parry arrived there was a chance to get Morgan’s guitars sorted and he and Ella to get soundchecked.  Folks had started arriving, lovely to see Faye and her family in particular, as well as usual suspects like Amanda, Dean, Sarah, Russ, Michelle and Rob.  A fun hour or so was spent being silly, perhaps regrettably I taught Lucy how to not have all her live videos starting in selfie mode!

Morganella were up first – launching into Daisies and Sunshine in a diversion from starting with a cover version, and I think a good move.  The sound was ace and both Morgan and Ella were looking very comfortable up on stage (the former perhaps because he spent most of the set hiding behind his hair!).  Refuge followed, Ella really not holding back on the vocals in what is a pretty empassioned song.

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Freeborn Al / 17th February 2018 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Beat the Streets!

I must admit up front I didn’t really feel up to Beat the Streets, which is a shame – but since they so handily placed three of my favourite acts right next to each other in the same venue we did muster ourselves to get into town.  I do regret not entering into the spirit a bit more so, but with an early start on Monday sometimes you do have to be disappointedly sensible at times, so we drove into town and parked up.

Upon reaching Rock City it was kicking out from Sleaford Mods’ set – they’ve never done it for me recorded, I would’ve given them a chance live but what was immediately apparent was the very reasonable ticket prices had seen loads of people snap them up, great to see so many people out to support an anti-homelessness charity, with numbers recently released to show rough-sleeping is on the rise, along with the use of foodbanks, we really are fundamentally failing more and more people as a society.

We found Lee and Geoff outside the venue and awaited being allowed in as hundreds of people poured out the place – once in we joined a queue for the basement where Headsticks were coming on soon – but Kagoule were already underway, and the room was hella full so it was one-in-one-out – they over-ran a little so we got to see the last couple of songs and I really enjoyed them, I think I shall keep an eye out for them playing again nearby.

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Freeborn Al / 28th January 2018 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Oh man, look at those cave men go..

I must admit I was a bit surprised when we got to not particularly far away Corby at the lack of familiar faces in the busy crowd at The White Hart.  Of course there were a fair few as ever – reassuring that a sell-out can be achieved in a new town in terms of playing, I guess! We got there early, had a quick drink a nearby funky cocktail bar (the perils of needing the loo, seeing a bar called ‘Malt-something’ and assuming it was an ale pub, ha!).  Some chips from the chippy and we were good to go.

The venue was the backroom of the pub, a work in progress the landlord was telling me, but workable enough – it was evocative of the kinds of places we used to go see Ferocious Dog years ago – but in this case very much full of people!  A nice mixed crowd in terms of age and look – there were FD t-shirts a plenty, folks who perhaps didn’t normally see them, plenty of kids – a really good mixture.

First up on stage was Emma McGrath (accompanied by Alfie on drums), she has a new single out next week, and is off on tour supporting Hayseed Dixie too.  She started off on guitar and wow, what a voice she has!  I’m going to guess the opening song was called either Don’t Leave Me Behind or Lifeline, really engaging – I’m sure there was some jiggery pokery going on with the drumkit alongside traditional drums too.  A really full sound for just the two of ’em.

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Freeborn Al / 28th January 2018 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Politics

2017 – the ‘slow down year’..

Whilst I always seem to be busy, 2017 was a quieter year than the last couple – that’s borne out by the blog activity, 68 posts this year compared to 90 in 2016.  Home ownership, life events and an inherent need to slow down a little bit (but only a little) took its toll.

There were a few occasions where I bundled events into single mega-posts rather than splitting them out that might be artificially manipulating the statistics downward.  But on the music front it’s been another belting year, regardless!

January got underway pretty late with a trip to Droitwich to see Nick Parker and Paul Henshaw, an ace gig and a chance to finally put a visual reference to a place that had always stuck in my mind from DFS adverts of yore.  Now I’m just looking to head to Darley-Dale and Measham for gigs and I can tick off the sofa-based trilogy of places from those cursed interludes that used to plague us between films around Christmas in the 80s and early 90s!

February was a little livelier, we had a trip with off-duty Nick Parker to see previously unheard of Kevin Devine in Nottingham which was awesome, great support too from The Lion and the Wolf and George Gadd.  Ferocious Dog dropped their From Without acoustic album to us which went down very well indeed, whilst Mad Dog Mcrea played an amazing set in Nottingham along with The Outlines and Star Botherers (I’m not sure if they’d officially dropped the ‘the’ by this point!).

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Freeborn Al / 30th December 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

The West Country’s always been good to me..

Ever since I’ve got into Gaz Brookfield I’ve always harboured an ambition to see him play closer to home, particularly one of his Christmas shows.  Then they always seemed to clash with Dogfest, but this year it didn’t – so I booked tickets aaaaages ago along with a hotel and consigned it to something to be excited about.  Then Ferocious Dog announced they were playing Weston Super Mare the next day, well, I was practically there wasn’t I?  So I booked tickets and a hotel.

A support of The Leylines Duo made this doubly exciting.  Then to compound matters Nick Parker announced a full band gig at Bocabar in Glastonbury on the Friday night before – well, y’know, since we’re in that neck of the woods anyway – it would be rude not to wouldn’t it?  An extended weekend of gigging taking in some of my very favourite live performers in a last hurrah before Christmas takes over.

So Nick was up first – Ella trained to Solihull where I was working so we could hit the road to Glastonbury.  A pretty good trek down there found us at the Premier Inn, and a fully booked restaurant next door.  D’oh!  Luckily we found an Aldi nearby (there’s not a lot else!) so ended up stocking up on stuff there for something to eat before heading to the venue just over the road from the hotel.

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Freeborn Al / 24th December 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

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