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.

(more…)

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

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!).

(more…)

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

Rockstock and … well, long overdue…

This is long overdue, so apologies – it’s been a busy ol’ time.  Rockstock and Barrel happened at the end of September, and it was as magnificent as ever.  After finishing up work we arrived on site on Thursday evening and got ourselves set up and reunited with our lovely festival friends.  Soon enough the cider was flowing (Pear and Chilli was my weapon of choice for most of the weekend) – and the music was starting in the acoustic lounge before the festival proper started on Friday.

Phil Cudworth took to the stage first – probably more familiar to most of us for his awesome woodwork, it turns out he’s a bit of a dab hand with guitar and singing too!  He opened with a potentially childhood-destroying song called Disney Princesses where he painted probably on reflection a more healthy set of role models than those proferred by the film company in question, then on to Coward about growing up in the 70s.  A mixture of irreverence, humour but also underpinned with real charm.

Coward was up next and then Bounce, then it was on to Hippy Chick.  I must admit I started losing track of song names – there was one about a chap called Gary, Computer Nerds has a question mark next to it then there was a really bluesy number called Tollpath Blues.  Then we get to where I’ve just covered subject matters – one song was about Russians, another about VIPs, then one called Green-eyed Monster.  The set finished up with Free for a Day but as Zoe took the stage she asceded to the crowds demands for an encore, which we got in the form of Sunglasses – a reflection on how stage-performing can adversely affect ones personality.  Something to watch out for!

(more…)

Freeborn Al / 10th October 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

Small but perfectly formed.. part 2..

For longer term readers you might remember a detrimental Saturday morning breakfast with Jamie, Paul and Jayne at last year’s Roystonbury Festival.  I’m happy to say that this tradition was continued but with a different cast – he led a merry band of troubadours to a local pub to watch the Lions play Rugby – I swerved this, with little interest in the game and a desire for a lie in and being able to remember the day – those that did complete the trip returned with mixed results!

So with lie-in in the bag I surfaced and was offered some delicious breakfast wraps by John and Angela, which along with a cheeky cider set me up for the day very nicely indeed!  We popped to see Amanda and Sarah by the Purrple Peeple Eater to await the return of the Rugby revellers which was suitably hilarious.  Between the five of them they’d managed to run up an impressive bar tab and an advanced level of drunkenness.

Dean immediately set to the task of providing speciality shot slippery nipples for everyone, with limited success – before reappearing in slightly different clothing – that soon made its way onto Jamie who spent the rest of the day in a rather fetching dress.  Mark fared less well, he and Simon ended up in bed whilst Darren the fifth intrepid adventurer had been less voracious on the Guinness, Jäger and tequila consumption so was doing pretty well!

(more…)

Freeborn Al / 9th July 2017 / Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Sunday smiles!

Sunday started with an early morning conversation with a hedgerow near my van thanks to the previous night’s over-indulgences!  Oops!  It’s safe to say I was feeling a little delicate whilst we mustered on the benches infront of the Merch stall listening to the lovely chilled out acoustic vibes of River Roots.  Some beautifully melodic singing and playing, just the thing for soothing an angry hangover!

Meanwhile Les, Nick and Skeg had arrived for a natter – once I’d got some tea and a sausage cob down me things were looking decidedly less troublesome!  I wandered down to the Hidden Stage just in time to catch Oliver Cunliffe finishing up what I’m told was an excellent set – he ended with Don’t Look Back in Anger, a confident vocal and guitar delivery, I wish I’d caught his full set – definitely one to watch out for in the future – a real talent.

Back on the mainstage and The Fargo Railroad Co. were set up and underway – drenched in Americana, delivering a set of amazing bluesy southern rock (with suspicious lapses into Yorkshire accents between songs, haha!) – I really enjoyed these guys, they were certainly dressed for the part and sounded amazing – but we needed to head into the campsite so Ella and Morgan could practice some of the songs for their set later (some of which they’d never done before!).

(more…)

Freeborn Al / 9th June 2017 / Music, Other Bands, Photos

A sweet ‘un in Nuneaton..

Even Lara Croft popped in to enjoy the gig!

Day two of a double header of The Leylines went swimmingly.  As Michael and Bex were heading down from Yorkshire I sent them a message to see if they wanted to stay over at mine as I was driving anyway.  This paid dividends for me – they had an early start on Sunday but offered to pick us up en route, woo!  Andy was staying too – so once everyone had assembled we piled into Michael’s car and headed off down the M42 to Nuneaton, which was surprisingly busy – eventually we found ourselves a largely abandoned car park within a short stagger of the venue.

I’ve not been to The Crew / Queen’s Hall for ages – it’s an ace venue, we had a drink downstairs waiting for the upstairs venue to open.  Soon after arriving upstairs The Strays were underway – a new band to me, a three piece fusion of rockabilly, blues and rock and roll – not my normal repertoire but really enjoyable and upbeat.  Sam on guitar and backing vocals, Gary standing up and drumming (and backing vocals) and livewire lead vocals and occasional tambourine from Estelle, it made for cracking warm up for the much more familiar bands that would follow.

Reading through my notes I didn’t do a great job of noting song titles – the danger of drinking cider and a new act I suppose!  One featured You scratch my back I’ll scratch yours in the lyrics – the opener and third track I missed the name of, Sam took the vocals for The Whisky Kid, which was then followed up with Stranger Danger.   It was revealed there was a new EP coming out in the next week or so, if you like blues infused rockabilly then you’d do well to get yourself a copy!  Waiting is one of the tracks on there, and it was a belter.

(more…)

Freeborn Al / 27th March 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

That difficult second festival… day two!

img_0052Friday night was so memorable, so it was with that ambivalent mixture of excitement and tired reluctance we hauled ourselves out of the hotel come Saturday to taxi our way back to the Robin 2.  As such, we owe apologies to Stevie Simpson for missing his set in its entirely and to Emma & The Professor who were half way into theirs by the time we made it – but well, non-stop music for twelve hours, it wouldn’t be the only stuff we missed – and I must confess to sitting and feeling daunted about trying to write it all down!

img_0051Heading back into the gloomy venue worked a lot like the casinos in Vegas – it made it seem perpetually evening.  Emma & The Professor were on the second stage, and just striking up Bostin’ track Men An Tol – thankfully plenty of folk were more disciplined at getting up than we were, there was a good crowd in already!  This was followed up with Battle of the Marches and The Old Black Crow.  They have such a unique sound, and a new album in the offing which I’m excited about!

The two stages were alternating – Stevie Simpson compering the main stage, handing over to (or being handed over from) Brian Stone on the second stage.  If you take a moment to think about the logistics, soundchecking through the sound-desk only, the first chance to artists get to hear their monitor mix was starting the set – the sound guys and stage management deserves some serious kudos for even considering this way of working, to have pulled it off – just wow!

(more…)

Freeborn Al / 19th October 2016 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

All’s well at Whitwell..

bbWe had a really busy weekend just gone – with events on Friday and Sunday we wouldn’t have missed for the world, combined with the possibility of me finally getting completed on a new house we thought Whitwell might’ve been a step too far.  Luckily the house move was delayed by a week – some hasty arrangements involving somewhere for us to park Ludo meant that we could at least make the Saturday.  And it was sure worth it!

The festival nestles in the Whitwell Community Centre – what I’m presuming is a former school building eerily reminiscent of my old Primary school (which has long since been torn down and replaced by an old folks home!) – with a stage and stalls outside, and a couple more inside functioning as the second stage and an open mic performance area.  Stalls ranged from food, clothing and of course a bar.

Upon advice of people who’d been there on the Friday I was pointed towards the cider bar to sample the Mango cider – it had sold out the night before, hasty new provisions had been sourced – and I took heed and made sure I got a few pints in before it had gone.  My gosh, what a delicious drink… keep an eye out for Lilley’s Mango Cider – it really is a thing of beauty (not quite up there with Rockstock Pineapple cider for my money, but bloody nice!).

(more…)

Freeborn Al / 14th September 2016 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

And a Bostin’ time was had by all!

IMG_1373How on earth do you go about summing up a day like Bostin’ Days Live? Both Jamie and Bart at different points in the day asked me how on earth I was going to keep track, I revealed a bit of note-taking on my phone to act as an aide memoire but well, that’s something I generally do (except when in Ferocious Dog moshpits funnily enough – can you imagine?!) and I frequently still frequently forget crucial details.  But making a few notes and making sure I grab a photo of key things I’ve seen generally suffices to at least try to get the point across.

The early finish in Bristol combined with exorbitant drink prices in the O2 Academy saw me on the road in good time – only an accident on the M42 caused some delays around Solihull, as I work there I’m well-versed in dodging that road, so got myself to my hotel where the owner was glad to let me check in early so I was at The Crew well before everything started.  Clad in the best wristband I’ve been given all year (it’s going to be a real bind to take this one off) and a nice plastic pint pot.  I thought about being sensible and ordered a cider.  Oops.

Shortly after Snotty and Simon arrived, it had been a bit odd being at a couple of Ferocious Dog gigs without her (the first question either of us get when out without the other is ‘where’s Snotface/Fisher?’  Anyway, it was good to be at an event together – as folk started arriving we made our way upstairs where things were kicking off – Steve Bentley opened the event by introducing the first performer and compere for the upstairs stage, Stevie ‘One Bloke One Mandolin’ Simpson, and also inviting a sheepish looking Addie on to the stage to mark the start of the event.

Now, I am confident I’ll remember everyone I saw – whether I remember songs I heard is another matter entirely!

(more…)

Freeborn Al / 18th October 2015 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

FD put a smile on Cambridge’s boat race..

IMG_9506Back on the road for the recommencement of the tour.  My original plan for Cambridge was just to drive there and back, it’s not a million miles away from where I live and there’s the promise of Derby the following night, but thanks to the hospitality of Brian and Karen I did end up staying and having a few cheeky ciders in Cambridge which is a nice bonus – particularly with them both off on their travels today.  Thank you very much, both!

On the drive into Cambridge along with Brian’s cousin John, a Ferocious Dog debutant, I wondered whether Ken had been sticking up the assorted Vote Labour boards I saw on the way in.  It doesn’t strike me as a typically Labour area – maybe that’s why those supporters that are there feel the need to advertise! – but I didn’t see any other political parties represented.  Either way, it was no time at all before we’d parked up coincidentally arriving at the same time as Simon and Ella and parking up right behind them.

(more…)

Freeborn Al / 11th April 2015 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands / 0 Comments