We’re just Lost Folk..

Unusually for a Wednesday night I was unfeasibly excited on 21st November in 2012. Despite being full of cold and feeling rotten, I was off to Rock City to see the mighty Levellers, and by virtue of winning a charity auction I’d been handed a backstage pass to go and collect my swag directly from the band. My love of live music had been reignited by Ferocious Dog, and looking back made me once again more receptive to new music that I’d struggled to find in the mainstream.

Nestled under the righthand staircase (which has subsequently moved in a remodel of the venue) nursing a Diet Coke and sporting a ridiculous Movember moustache was where my enduring love affair with Gaz Brookfield began – and it was love at first sight. I couldn’t even tell you the set list he chose that night, I definitely remember The Ballad of Elizabeth Duke being in there, and either Thin or The West Country Song (or maybe both – I definitely remember a singalongy song).

Whilst awkwardly hanging around the dressing room door after the gig I mumbled something incoherent about how much I enjoyed his set to him as he was presumably gearing up to depart (as we now know, from Land Pirate’s Life, the promised lift on the tourbus went unutilised due to the rubbishness of our rail network) for the next leg of the tour in Leeds at the O2 Academy. I then captured a series of awkward selfies with the Levs – ridiculous moustache instantly regretted!

Citizen Fish followed Gaz and didn’t really do it for me, so I popped downstairs to the merchandise stand and availed myself of the CDs he had on offer – either Trial or Error or Tell it to the Beer, again, possibly both. Since then I’ve avidly consumed his prodigious output and taken in as many live shows as I can – aided not least by his hooking up with Ferocious Dog on their From Without tour.

That love blossomed for a solo acoustic guy, but his incisive lyrics and catchy songs don’t get lost when backed by a band and incrementally flashy production or extras as we step through the albums. I remember Gaz posting that he was ‘throwing everything’ into this recording – and here we’ve got loads of layers, there’s brass, piano, synthy sounding things and more guitar effects along with the more customary acoustic guitar, percussion and fiddle.

Whilst this might be an album for the Lost Folk, you can easily navigate your way through the complexity of layers – the songs cut through loud and clear. The depth and layers of instruments might be considered the mirrors and the smoke of this recording – to steal a line from the title track – but you certainly don’t get lost in it.

Like in his homage to Loudon Wainwright III, Gaz’s semi-autobiographical tendancy either through charting his musical career, personal life or topical musings without getting preachy is both brave and poignant, and I guess being in a very similar age bracket there’s a lot of resonance in those musings for me – perhaps not so much in the musical career musings – but ultimately as humans we’re all fragile with the same kind of life concerns.

Title track Lost Folk opens up the album at pace, I love the addition of brass and chugging bass with swirling keys in the background. Typically catchy lyrics – creating or maybe defining in a demographic grouping I’m sure lots can relate to. Not quite old, definitely not young, politically marginalised in an increasingly polarised world and not interested in the sanitised and saccharine mainstream musical offerings. I’ve been in a few fields full of those kinds of people. It’s more of an attitudinal grouping I suppsoe than a demographic one!

The promise of bigger and more ambitious is delivered without comproming the essence of Gaz’s music. IOU is an uplifting tribute of thanks, The Glorious Adventure Co. slows the pace but doesn’t dull the mood – a bit of googling suggests it’s charting a motorcycle based tour given Gaz’s love of his two-wheeled conveyance – imagery of getting lost for the sake of it is always appealing to me, I do that quite a lot albeit usually walking rather than on a motorbike. I’m far too clumsy for that!

Afterthought has swirling fiddle and brings the pace back up to a bounce – a supportive anthem of how we need to look after each other and it’s really important to not be afraid to talk about your problems. Sage advice – did you know in 2018 there were more than 6,000 suicides in the UK? Men are three times more likely to make up that statistic – and most likely to be in the 45-49 age bracket. Awareness of mental ill health is becoming less stigmatised – but there’s still a way to go, it’s a good subject to address.

We’ve heard Aged Revolt before – an anagram of a popular hotel chain who wouldn’t give Gaz and Jake permission to use their name for their collaborative album. It’s given a facelift here – Ben’s fiddle in particular is rather spectacular! Given the overall theme and feel of the album it does make a lot of sense to revisit it here, and it’s a banging tune he and Jake collaborated on.

Any excuse to use Ella’s awesome shot from Farmer Phil’s a few years back!

Whilst I’ve talked a lot about the layers and complexities – it’s nice to take a break in the middle of the album with just Gaz and his guitar for Pen to Paper – you might’ve seen him open recent shows with this songwriters block lament with two chords and no chorus (although as the lyrics suggest he does sneak some E minors in amongst the Gs and the Cs!).

Snakes and Ladders kickstarts us back into high energy territory with electric guitar, robot-trumping synthy noises and – once of those gently nearly-political ones that ultimately concludes we might just take life a bit too seriously. Oalaego has a swaying feel to it, with an almost country feel to it – I have a nagging feeling I’ve heard Gaz explain the backstory to this song but I’ll be damned if I can remember it – googling or anagram hunting hasn’t helped, I’m sure it’ll come to me!

Uneducated Guess has a much rockier feel musically and notably in vocal delivery – machine-gunned at you over chugging guitars. It works really well for me, unusually for Gaz might prove a tricky one to sing along to (the verses at least).

Another reprise from Aged Revolt is the charming Great Minds Drink Alike with Jake Martin, a bromance of a duet with a bit of a facelift – most notably the piano giving it a pub knees-up feel which is very fitting, with the crowd at the Beehive in Swindon providing backing vocals as the track builds (I was gutted I couldn’t make the logistics work to join in with this – I’m sure I can hear Jamie Westwood on there though!).

Which leaves the finish of Just Another Day, starting with just vocals and guitar and again picking up the themes of ageing but ultimately acceptance as bass, percussion and keyboard joins the mix. The preference of a local pub to a noisy club is something I’ve been able to relate to since my early twenties, so this is definitely up my street – the brass section starts to come into the mix as the track builds and ultimately is simply faded out to bring us to the end.

Another awesome album – and reflecting on looking at the array of talent involved, it brings be back to the start of the post on discovering new acts through old favourites. There’s the likes of Chris Webb, Jake Martin, Nick Parker involved who of course are all songwriters and performers in their own right who through osmosis I’ve subsequently discovered through following Gaz. Supporting the support is the gift that keeps on giving!

Now I really need to get my arse into gear and work out which of Gaz’s tour dates I can make!

Freeborn Al / 28th September 2019 / Music, Other Bands, Photos

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

Besieged..

Whilst I’ve worked out how to do this here blogging lark I’ve got another album I’ve been hammering lately to muse upon. It’s one I’ve been waiting to hear for what feels like ages.

I’ve made no secret of my love of McDermott’s 2 Hours in the past – so relatively new release Besieged was a very exciting prospect and it’s not disappointed. A collaboration with the aforementioned along with Levellers and Oysterband, it’s a long overdue sequel to excellent similar co-creations – the last one I think was Disorder way back in 2004… gosh, that makes me feel old! This could well be the full-stop for McDermott’s 2 Hours.

And sure enough, it’s a fitting epitaph (of sorts – I don’t think Nick is hanging up his metaphorical creative boots for other projects).

It kicks off with the barnstorming Firebird, fiddle-driven and bouncing from the off with Nick Burbridge‘s inimitable vocal delivery setting down a strong marker. I absolutely adore both Nick’s lyrical skill (and Jeremy’s in the case of this song) and his delivery. This is a great example of both working in wonderful harmony with the expert instrumentation from the band – drenched in themes of some kind of renewal, characterised of course by a firebird, which is a phoenix, innit?

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

We the Collective..

There’s always that extra bit of excitement at the prospect of a new Levellers album dropping through the letterbox – unfortunately for me the postie arrived when I wasn’t in over the bank holiday weekend, so impatient I had to resort to iTunes to have a listen before picking up my goodies this morning.  Reading reactions online has been a bit like those irritating Marmite adverts on TV (for the record, I definitely fall into the hate camp for Marmite) – with fans seemingly either loving it or hating it.

Having not made it so far to the live tour – my postponed date in Milton Keynes has been rescheduled for when I’m at a wedding, sadly – so I’m going to have to peruse the fixtures for another suitable date to check it out.  The new arrangements of familiar songs were a surprise to me, and I’d say a very pleasant surprise!  Recorded in the famous Abbey Road under supervision from John Leckie, and some musical assistance from The wonderful Moulettes and Tobias May this is the familiar (mostly) rendered in a very different way.

I can kind of understand people’s cognitive dissonance – the Levellers music has lived with many of us for years, a comfort blanket replete with meaning both in the merit of their own lyrics and melodies or through life events they provided a soundtrack to (or in mosh pits they’ve been danced to in).  I’ll be honest, I struggled when ‘wrestled with our’ became ‘whispered all our’ fears on the 1998 re-release of One Way.  I still bristle a bit when they still sing it that way now (I wonder if they did on the Levelling the Land anniversary tours?  I’ll have to check on the Live CD!).

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Freeborn Al / 3rd April 2018 / Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

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

It’s a two Dogfest kinda year..

With Dogfest having had a break in 2015, we got to have the bonus of a double-Dogfest year in 2016 – the fifth one (or certainly the fifth one I’ve been to) – it’s amazing to see how much it’s grown from!  In the past it’s always been a race to get to Warsop for the start – no such problem here, I poked my head out of a cosy sleeping bag to face the winter temperatures in my van. Brr! At least I’d remembered to sleep the other way around from normal owing to the slope I’d parked on!

First things first was a trip down to the Co-op to buy some supplies to donate to Framework later in the day.  Once bag there were more stirrings in the urban campsite, a chance to chat with Darren for a bit before Wez and I headed out for a very hearty breakfast at The Tea Cosy on the High Street – recommended, a big ol’ breakfast with plenty of tea was just the fuel needed for a day as relentless as what was to follow.  By the time we headed back the doors were open and wristband acquired courtesy of Rich.

On the main stage the show was opened by Jimmy Carroll, I’ve only found a personal page on Facebook rather than a page so far – so I won’t link to that, but an ideal act to open the day – two chaps, acoustic guitars, relaxed vibe.  As is oft the problem for early acts they fall foul of the ooh! people are arriving! curse that means they get a little relegated to background music – it sounded like great background music to me though.  Just before setting up on stage Sam was excited to see his new band on the t-shirts!

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Freeborn Al / 19th December 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Dream gig?

slide1By a considerable margin I’ve not seen any live act as much as I’ve seen Levellers, Ferocious Dog and Gaz Brookfield – but I’ve never seen them all on the same bill, much less one after the other in the cozy confines of Rock City.  It’s doubly fitting as if it weren’t for my enduring love of the headliners, I wouldn’t have discovered the other two (well, maybe I would eventually) – so Sunday’s trip to Rock City felt like a poignant and fitting way to close a circle of sorts.

Being a geeky data mangler by profession I couldn’t resist a cheeky Venn Diagram!

img_0549Unfortunately a season of festivalling and gallivanting off around Europe meant I didn’t have holiday from work to spare for the day after – coupled with a bit of mosh pit flu starting to kick in, driving to and from the gig seemed the way forward for Ella and I.   That said, we were keen to get into Nottingham early enough to join the socialising in the Tap n’ Tumbler – immediately faced with Mark Chadwick surveying the swelling crowd of other familiar faces.  It’s funny, I still find it really difficult to go and chat with members of Levellers unlike the other two acts on the bill.  No reflection on them, just me being a starstruck wuss!

img_0551Elsewhere in the pub it became increasingly packed with countless gigging and festival friends – it was great to see Wez back amongst us in particular.  Being in non-drinking mode and mindful of an early start I’d planned on spending the gig further back and taking in the show – until Dean beckoned me over.  “I need a word with you, Al” he said, looking a bit stern – after last year’s Rock City mix up he was insistent I needed to surf on him for Freeborn John to make amends – not that it was necessary, it’s a signal honour though.  Looks like I’m in the mosh pit then!

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Freeborn Al / 29th November 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

They did the mash.. it was the Münster mash!

img_0490We set off early for Münster, it was a pretty quiet bus all told, all the more reason to appreciate the Herculean efforts of Dean and Stu who got us from place to place whilst we either messed around or slept.  On arriving in town we spotted gig posters on the walls, and soon enough we were pulling into the car park of the hotel (hurrah!), which was right next to the venue – Jovel (double hurrah!).

They had a few rooms ready, so we were able to drop bags off and freshen up and await the rest whilst grabbing a quick drink from the hotel bar.  Once everyone was ready we decided to risk public transport again and grab the bus into the town, this went much more smoothly than the tram in Amsterdam, and was really reasonably priced too – we’d got ourselves to the centre in no time at all and off the bus.

img_0493Münster is a very scenic place – markets bedecked the streets and we had a nice wander around, having failed dismally in Duisburg to eat anything of note I was dead excited to get myself some currywurst, and very nice it was too before heading to a local pub to sink a few beers (and assorted local spirits).  We went back via the market again, Mick bought a soap which he thought was a lump of cheese (ha!), whilst Jacquie and I found some stagewear for The Star Copiers.

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Freeborn Al / 24th November 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Here I Am(sterdam!)..

img_0481The concensus on the bus was that we wanted to set off earlier than normal to allow for us to do a bit more sight-seeing in Amsterdam.  A sensible idea, one I still hold by, but by gosh the excesses of the night before made it a challenge!  I made it up for some breakfast, Mark wasn’t looking too clever, it was a quiet journey for most of us – much of it I spent asleep hunched in the corner of my back row seat!

By the time we arrived in The Netherlands the storm that had apparently been ravaging England days before was sweeping over the lowlands.  We headed into our destination watching leaves being blown in mini tornado patterns, mercifully the rain seemed to have subsided by the time we found our hotel – a short stagger from the venue, the iconic Melkweg, and right on the tram line to get into town.

We’d booked parking at the hotel, but alas the bus proved a bit too big so poor Stu and Mark had to do a few laps of the city – which upon walking around it was bloody bedlam – before eventually changing on one right outside the door (and an epic piece of reverse parking to get in it).  A bonus, as it meant we didn’t actually need to pay owt for parking in what is generally a pretty expensive place to leave a vehicle any length of time (unless it’s a bicycle or a moped which littered every pavement!).

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Freeborn Al / 24th November 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Photos / 0 Comments

Ich bin ein Düisburger..

Dogging in Düisburg - sponsored by Killepitsch!

Dogging in Düisburg – sponsored by Killepitsch!

Breakfast in Kortrijk was a little disappointing, but welcome nonetheless – and sustenance was pretty important.  We didn’t have to leave too early so it was good to load up on caffeine and food before heading back onto the minibus for the next leg.  I think I pretty much slept the whole journey to Düisburg – a place I was only aware of because of League of Gentleman character Herr Lipp and semi-celebrity Nottingham Forest fan Ebby.  Upon arriving outside our hotel we nearly ran over Addie and Jane!

The hotel was bloody stunning, it was a shame we’d see so little of it really!  I shared a room with Deano for this one, we got ourselves showered and sorted and wandered out into a bloody lovely city.  We headed straight to the German market (or, more accurately, since we were in Germany, ‘the market’) which was full of lovely smelling and looking things – keen to locate the venue we carried on walking and settled in the bar next door to the venue.

Our British custom of standing at the bar doesn’t really work in Germany, there they conduct table service and mark your beer mat to keep track of your tab.  Eventually we found a table we could occupy for a while and sank a few beers, and, oh dear, a litre bottle of Killepitsch between us – in the same vein as Jagermeister but a different regional variety.  Plenty of familiar folk were descending on the place – not least Mark, Charlie and Mark from Levellers who were already propping the bar up when we walked in.

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Freeborn Al / 23rd November 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments