Fake News and Propaganda..

The final artwork is still in progress so have a gig flyer instead!

I never ask to get sneaky peaks of recordings Ferocious Dog are working on – when people ask I truthfully say there’s an appeal to waiting for the big reveal when the CD arrives in the post.

Funnily enough the latest person to ask was Ken – Ella and I had popped to see him a few weeks ago for some tattoos – he was surprised, and once he’d navigated the labyrinthine band and crew WhatsApp group admittedly we did hear a few songs through a tinny phone speaker whilst he kept tabs on Mansfield Town surprisingly failing to beat local rivals Notts County.

Fast-forward a couple of weeks and a Facebook message pops up from Dan with a link to a Google Drive with ten mp3 files. The only accompanying explanation was ‘nearly mixed’ – no matter how much part of me might want to wait for the big reveal, it’s not like anyone is going to resist that opportunity, now is it? So of course I fired up the laptop and got downloading, eager as a kid on Christmas Eve to get stuck in.

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Freeborn Al / 3rd March 2019 / Band, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

Kept in the dark..

Ooh, hello – amazingly I actually remembered the login details for the blog!

The new album from Headsticks landed on my doormat this week, and whilst I’ve deliberately reined back on writing it has inspired me to try to remember how all this internet stuff works. Because it’s just shy of an hours worth of excellence.

What struck me above anything is there’s some real diversity in stylings and tone from what I expected, and a progression from their previous two excellent albums (I wrote about Feather and Flame just here). The Stoke on Trent band present here a collection of songs that showcases a band really comfortable in their own skin – and perhaps most stark that I’ve not really associated with them before is a sense of playfulness and fun.

Which probably isn’t surprising for anyone who’s spent any time with Andrew (and I dare say the rest of the band, who I don’t know so well!), but where before social-consciousness and politics have been central pillars, in here we have that enhanced with a proper cheekiness – not least with Mushrooms which, whilst underpinned with a serious message delivered over a bouncy skank overlaid with sinister pixie laughs. It sounds silly written like that, it’s so catchy though!

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Freeborn Al / 2nd March 2019 / Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

Master of plenty! Brian Stone album is OUT NOW!

Brian Stone releasing his debut album is definitely a good reason to dust the cobwebs off the blog again – I was really chuffed when he got in touch to ask if I was still reviewing stuff.  Admittedly I’m doing so much less fervently these days – so getting a download link and getting everything synced across to my phone felt quite exciting – I could get a few listens in before getting to grips with writing up a review.  Also that residual nervousness, it’s a mate’s blood sweat and tears you’re being expected to somehow do justice to in words.  Well, I’ll give it a go!

I was reflecting when I first got to know Brian, I think it was at a Gaz Brookfield gig in Oakham, Rutland when we first got talking a good few years ago now – about three and half years ago he and Karen kindly provided me a bed for the night after Ferocious Dog played Cambridge.  After that gig he casually picked up his guitar apologetically before playing through some FD, Gaz Brookfield and Leatherat songs – always one to play down his talents – which quickly became a fixture around campfires and then of course stages over quite a short timespan really if you think about it!

What I particularly love about this album is the assemblage of lots of friends to add their instrumentation to the songs – it’s a risky prospect, we’re used to Brian in solo acoustic guise – but this is done really well, some songs have a full band sound, which don’t detract from the underlying tune, some remain stripped back – it’s all done very well (I was terrified to see Maty Tustian listed on backing vocals, for example!).  The combination of Brian’s songwriting, the artists’ interpretations of that and the predictably awesome production Joel Howe lends to proceedings gives a polished but authentic collection of songs.

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Freeborn Al / 12th October 2018 / Music, Other Bands

Fishing for Owls..

I’ve been sitting on Paul Henshaw and the Scientific Simpletons‘ latest album for a while so I do apologise profusely for the delay in finally jotting down my musings.  Fishing For Owls has been on my regular playlist for a little over a month now, and it’s a mixed paced collection of folk-punk goodness – one moment irreverent, one moment deeply moving and at times funny.  There’s full band big sound, acoustic moments and all manner of paces.

Middle Finger Thank You is a ballsy opener – drumsticks click a count in to a wall of guitar and percussion before it slows up for the vocals to kick in.  Defiant in sound and message – Paul describes it as a ‘bit of an internal battle and ‘fuck you’ to myself, which fits nicely with the sound here – uncompromising, relentless and aggressive instrumentals overlaid with measured and considered vocals for the most part.  Don’t let life get you down and deal with your problems is the message here.

A folksier feel with stomping feet and acoustic strumming heralds Wild Turkey – a song telling the tale of a trip to London to play a gig involving perhaps a little bit too much of the titled whiskey for the narrator.  Slightly self-sorry in tone, but quite philosophical about it too – I’m sure we’ve all had one of those moments when you feel like there’s nobody on your side and you’ve only got yourself to rely on.

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Freeborn Al / 14th June 2017 / Music

Who put the crown on the head of the clown?

I do bloody love 3 Daft Monkeys, there’s no denying it.  They’re playful yet poignant, irreverent but relevant, mischievous and mystical – they weave and fuse their modern folk sound with celtic and balkan type influences – they bring smiles, they bring tears.  It was a real honour to be sent a preview copy of their new album – The Year of the Clown.  I’m always touched to be asked to review something somebody has created, it’s a personal thing and I’m only too eager to make sure that I treat it with the respect it deserves.

The CD arrived whilst I was galavanting at Rockstock and Barrel – I excitedly put it in the car when going to take Ella back to Stevenage only to be greeted with the dreaded ‘disc error’ message – oh well, I’ll rip it when I get home, I thought.  And I did – but only nine of the twelve tracks copied successfully… modern technology is great though, a quick email and Tim kindly furnished me with digital copies of the remaining tracks which I’ve spent the last few days getting to know whilst commuting, doing chores and well, basically any time I’ve been listening to music.

Accompanying the disc is a press release – Year of the Clown is a deliberate reference to the frankly terrifying global political stage – it positions the album as being very personal, 3 Daft Monkeys exposing their bare bones and their souls.  It shows in the sound too – in typical style there are powerful observations masked by catchy melodies, mischievous rhyming devices and swirling soaring fiddle journeys.  It’s unmistakably 3 Daft Monkeys, but with a degree of themeatic reinvention we’ve seen in their last few albums – and going another step toward trying to capture their raw live energy on a recording.

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Freeborn Al / 6th April 2017 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Outlining their credentials..

The Outlines are really going from strength to strength this year so far, and have released their second album Bones Bones Bones to underline this quite emphatically.  Whenever I try to write about how they sound it seems to somehow do them a disservice, a three piece grungy punk band, packed with power chords, chugging bass and drums, never-quite-gratuitous feedback and guitar solo work – they’re getting really rather comfortable in their own skin after a pretty solid start with their first album.

Much like their first self-titled release, this is a frenetic and mostly breakneck-paced affair – it’s done and dusted in half an hour and ten tracks.  It kicks in with Waiting, a guitar riff is quickly joined by drums and bass and then Kyle’s distinctive sneering-yet-tuneful vocals – there’s clever pace changes and moments where the instrumentation drops out completely to let the vocals hold sway before coming back with a vengeance – the middle-eight does sound like they’re shouting ‘Pazazz!’ though which makes me chuckle.  A strong start, fading out with feedback and leading straight into…

… Static, rapid drums and chugging guitar and bass kick into a proper headbangable track – it reminds me of my mate’s band Red Jester (who really ought to get back on the gigging circuit!).  A proper whirlwind tour, it’s over in a smidge over two minutes of mayhem.  She Don’t Know has a more ponderous guitar intro with percussion and bass more gently added – before the song kicks in properly, some intricate lyric work before the backing vocals of the song title hypnotically take over before the verse kicks in again, it’s a catchy bugger – I was merrily singing along to the chorus of this the first time I heard it live!

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Freeborn Al / 17th March 2017 / Music, Other Bands, Photos

Travelling along the (longer) ancient road!

My list of releases to write about never seems to get any shorter!  But that’s no bad thing, and The Silk Road are the next on my list – with a self-titled album to follow up from their EP released in the summer last year.  Back then when I wrote about it I drew parallels with both Levellers and Ferocious Dog in their sound – and that still stands.  As an aside, one of my friends once described FD quite disparagingly I thought at the time as ‘Levelling the Clash’.  To be fair, back then they probably had a few Levs covers in their set.

I’ve subsequently mentally reappropriated the description to be a badge of honour (maybe that’s how it was intended, to be fair!).  So if Ferocious Dog are ‘Levelling the Clash’ then I reckon The Silk Road are more like ‘Levelling the Pistols’.  And much like the former, the latter belies some of the intricacy and individuality on offer – but with the music often tending to the punk end of the folk-punk spectrum (although not always), and Tich’s visceral sneering vocals (although not always) it feels like a suitable pithy description.

All the tracks from the EP are reprised, along with eight companions – here we have a much more polished (without losing the bite) and varied collection of songs.  So whilst I might have suggested that The Silk Road are more punk than folk, there’s plenty of glimpses at their softer underbelly in here too – with traditional energetic instrumentals like Montagu’s Harrier which featured on the EP, and the frankly lovely Elizabeth Rose which almost sounds like it could morph into a McDermott’s 2 Hours song.

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Freeborn Al / 15th March 2017 / Other Bands, Photos

Acoustic albums like buses!

It feels like we’ve been waiting for ages, but no sooner does Ferocious Dog’s acoustic album land then shortly after The Leylines Trio’s album hit the doormat.  It’s taken me a while to get around to getting around to writing this up, which is good as it’s given me more chance to listen to it!  The packaging is basic, a cardboard sleeve – the front artwork is understated, but the tracklisting design is a thing of beauty – if the first bite of a meal is with the eye then maybe the first listen of a CD is, maybe not – but it’s a good start nonetheless!

Trio Album is short but sweet – clocking in at just under half an hour it has seven tracks, five of which you’ll know if you’re familiar with The Leylines and two new tracks that might offer a teaser into the new full album release (or might not!).  It was recorded live as a band rather than track by track in a studio – which helps to enhance the stripped back and more intimate sound that resonates throughout these tracks – you can get properly up close and personal, and also appreciate some thoughtful new arrangements of familiar tunes.

Gotta Get Out of Here kicks in with guitar and mandolin before the more familiar guitar strum brings in some pace and Steve’s vocals, not a million miles from the full album track although here obviously we don’t get the bass and percussion oomph – instead you get the backing vocals really popping to the fore, occasionally all the strings drop out to give full on harmonised acapella sections which is really very effective indeed – a familiar song performed by familiar artists but in an unfamiliar yet delightful manner.

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Freeborn Al / 14th March 2017 / Music, Other Bands, Photos

Besta Venya..

It’s always such an honour when an artist lets me have a sneak preview of a forthcoming release – I’ve been listening to Nick Parker‘s album-in-waiting, Besta Venya, for the last few weeks now.  Nick was a new discovery for me last year but he’s catapulted himself firmly as one of my very favourite songwriters and performers – be it in solo acoustic mode or with his band, The False Alarms.  If you don’t want too much by the way of spoilers before listening yourself, don’t read on!

I was reading an article the other day that explained that depending on whether you major on left brain (logical) thinking or right brain (creative) thinking helps to dictate whether your appreciation of music centres on the lyrics (left brain) or the melody (right brain).  Whenever I do tests to try to pigeon-hole my brain I generally come out balanced between left and right – so perhaps it’s not surprising that I find both pretty important in my very favourite music – I bring that up because Nick excels at both, he’s a clever lyricist and puts them to lovely tunes too.

There’s a thoughtful mixture of full band big sounding tracks, delicate acoustic ditties – there’s poignancy and humour throughout.  Nick manages to create music that perfectly balances on the tightrope of being charming without being twee, and his songs are frequently drenched liberally with the kind of self-effacing modesty that – if you’ve ever had the opportunity to speak to him (and you should definitely do that) – wouldn’t be in the least bit surprising to you.  Some of the songs are very familiar from recent gigs, others are new discoveries – but it’s genuinely a wonderful collection of music.

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Freeborn Al / 27th February 2017 / Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

It’s a new Ferocious Dog CD kinda day!

It feels like it’s been ages since I’ve had a post to write about my principal subject matter!

There’s still something irrevocably exciting about getting a Ferocious Dog CD through the post – and it’s fair to say this latest 3 piece live acoustic album is a little later than initially planned, so a combination of anticipation and half-forgetting it is on its way heightens this.  (The Leylines acoustic EP is due to land soon too, there must be something about getting acoustic recordings out on the expected timescale – I’m excited about that too!).

When From Without launched whilst it was excited, because I’d been lucky enough to hear the progression of rough-cuts, pre-masters and mastered tracks it meant the undeniable excitement of having the physical CD was diminished a bit since I’d been listening to it for weeks.  Not the case here, so I had the full jealous of folk who’d been in to receive their delivery whilst I was at work, waiting all day before getting hold of it in the evening to listen to on the way to band practice last night.

Delicious frustration – but worth it!  I won’t go track by track but pull out a few thoughts about some of them – so if you’re waiting to listen and don’t want any spoilers then stop reading!  The CD kicks in with the intro track familiar to anyone who’s seen the band live in the last couple of years – I’m sad enough to have badgered Waggy for the track and added it to my From Without album on my phone, but now it’s there for everyone to set the scene!

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Freeborn Al / 9th February 2017 / Band, Music, Photos / 0 Comments