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

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

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

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

Another fine Dogfest!

As if Dogfest isn’t a prospect mouthwatering enough for your musical delectation, Bart runs a pre-Dogfest night to get you limbered up for what is to follow – so I decided to bash the two reviews together as a further time-saving measure (given I’ve got three gigs coming up this weekend, d’oh!).  We got ourselves up to The Black Market Venue in good time and for a mere fiver were granted entry to the back room where both stages were being utilised to put on an amazing line-up.

First up on the side stage were 3 Wise Men, acoustic mellow tunes with all three of ’em providing vocals at one point or another and well synchronised guitars.  In The Cold Cold Night was early in the set which was followed up with That’s Life.  I was really enjoying the set – especially a cover of Massive Attack’s Man Next Door which was simultaneously unexpected and delightful in equal measure – well worth getting in early doors for (not, of course, that the event started on time – arf!).

The Outlines were up next on the main stage – looking ever more confident in their own skins, launching into Waiting and filling the room with energetic grungy rock, a stark contrast to the gentle set before but just as enjoyable.  Static, She Don’t Know, Calm Down – all quickly establishing themselves as classics.  Next up was probably my favourite of theirs (for now) in Buried a Lie.  Tight backing vocals and Kyle’s distinctive voice over an unfeasibly heavy sound for three of ’em..

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Freeborn Al / 13th December 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

There ain’t no party like.. TWO house parties!

Because I’m so ridiculously behind on blog posts, I’m going to combine an entry for two excellent house gigs – the first was hosted by the lovely Parry Clan and featured Morganella and Doozer McDooze doing their thing in an intimate and unplugged setting, the second was hosted by the equally lovely Fairish Clan and featured The Star Copiers and Nick Parker all amped up – along with a raucous open-mic finalé – I’m very lucky to have the opportunities to go to such awesome events!

So first up was Parry Towers.  I’d arrived early and Lucy and Nick had laid on a mountain of food for the revelry, so after troughing and discovering the wonder of the Akinator phone game with Evan, eventually guests arrived and it was time to start getting set up.  Morganella were up first in support guise – they’d had a quick rehearsal beforehand which they don’t get to do very often (at least not in the same place), but in no time found themselves a spot in the lounge to act as the performance area.

Kicking off with Black Horse and a Cherry Tree it sounded really good – my limited dalliances into singing have made me really appreciate the wonders of what a monitor does, so to perform fully acoustic is always impressive to my ears (well, if it’s in tune!  And it was!).  Self-penned track Daisies and Sunshine was up next and straight into Refuge and The Standing Stone of Onich to showcase their own EP tracks.  They don’t get away without playing Weak these days, so that featured next followed by Photosynthesis which is one of Nick’s favourites.

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Freeborn Al / 11th December 2017 / 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!

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

Might as well be on Marr’s..

Sunday’s road trip taught me I really need a Geography lesson, I excelled at the subject at school and A-Level – but clearly the syllabus had a bit too much focus on longshore drift, precipiation levels and the GDP of assorted countries rather than the basic location and direction of towns and cities in the UK.  I was down in Stevenage, and needed to head home to South Derbyshire, and figured – hell, Worcester is definitely kinda on the way, right?  Um. No.

That said I knew that when I put the destination in the sat nav and still went – even though it was 20 miles further than driving straight home.

Basically when I’ve run out of M42 I realise I’ve actualy gone quite a long way – echoes of going to Droitwich back in January (which also means I’ve already used the Worcester Sauce pun – dammit!).  I must admit that I’ve always had a bit of a hankering to visit The Marr’s Bar in Worcester too – so with Nick Parker along with Ben Wain playing, it seemed like this was to be my excuse!  There’s a car park 2 minutes away, and once I’d mastered the intricate one way system of Worcester I found myself parked up and a bit early so off in search of a hostelry, settling in the nearby Wetherspoons.

Inside a surprising number of people wearing double denim – I must’ve been in the right place!  Nick, Ben and Emily arrived shortly after looking for food, so we sat and had a natter, I wasn’t hungry until presented with the chips Nick didn’t want which were strangely demolished in no time at all!  Nick sorted out the set list for the evening, always keen to get feedback from attendees to keep them happy, I probably frustrated him by just saying I was happy to see whatever he wanted to play!

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Freeborn Al / 11th September 2017 / Gigs, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

Farmer Phil’s 2017 – part two!

Saturday morning started with sausage cobs (yes, they are cobs!) for breakfast – then we were up to the arena early doors as Morgan and Ella were doing a Morganella ‘meet and greet’ at the Pink Flamingo Bar. Lucan was a hero and arranged for a 4×4 to pick up our stuff to take up to the stage so I left Mark in charge of my stuff and accompanied Ella up to the arena. Starting the day with a cheeky cocktail and the first questions and answers was fun, but soon enough I needed to report back stage to get The Star Copiers set up – so that’s where I headed.

The sound crew were awesome – we aren’t very experienced really so we take all the help we can get! They got each monitor set up for us so that we could hear what we needed to hear, something I’d never really appreciated before until performing.  Once soundchecking was finished I found a quiet corner to get changed into my silly stage wear (okay, I just got changed in front of everyone back stage, haha!). Mark’s guitar seemed to not want to stay in tune, Kev was a bit nervous, Jacquie was practising lines – I was pretty excited in truth, definitely our biggest stage to date.

We started up by going on one by one with a slow intro to Down Under, Mark first, then Jamie, me, Kev and finally Jacquie to kick off the vocals. I thought it worked rather well! Donning sunglasses meant I couldn’t see the people in the barn – but I could see Kenny grinning at us from the bank outside the stage enclosure. What’s Up was next – even if I was tapping into a different song, already looking too far forward on the set list. Oops! It didn’t put the others off, so I could drop back into the correct beat soon enough. Listen was next, then I Still Believe (the one I started off on before by accident). It’s a song we always cock up in rehearsals – I’m happy to say this time I don’t think we did, although my monitor mix was largely Mark, Jacquie and me.

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Freeborn Al / 27th August 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos