Concrete Rose single out now!

This represents a bit of a departure for my normal musical genre playlists – but really well-timed as it is, as I’ve just got home from basking in the sun (okay, there was a smidge of rain too) at the wonderful Something to Smile About festival in Hatfield near Doncaster. The reason I bring that up is if you imagine a beautiful field full of happy smiling people, maybe one or two days in, just the ticket for an early afternoon in the sun is a gentle bounce to some reggae.

I guess there could be a thriving reggae scene that I’m probably not generally involved in – most of the events and gigs I get drawn to tend to be folky punky acousticy things, maybe with a smattering of ska thrown in. Occasionally you’ll find a happy coincidence of Talisman or similar on a festival line up from a thoughtful organiser – so perhaps it’s not surprising that I got hold of this single to review because Concrete Rose’s drummer happens to be none other than Alex from Ferocious Dog!

So, Concrete Rose are Lewis on vocals and guitar, Ahmed on bass, Giuseppe on keyboards and vocals and Alex on drums – they’ve come together with this project to build music with positive vibes at its foundation – reggae at root, but introducing influences from hip-hop, R&B, dancehall, funk, soul and beyond.

And today their first single and b-side has gone live on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Music (as well as your favourite streaming services too). As I allude to above, the perfect soundtrack for a lazy summer afternoon – which is certainly what I’m having today in festival recovery mode with it playing in the background.

Title track Benjamin kicks in with a very short drum intro and cymbal crash then lovely staccato reggae strums along with keys sounding like steel drums pick out the melody of the track underpinned with bass and rhythm before the steel drum-like keys drop out to make space for lead vocals to take on the song, which has an accompanying lyric video (see below) – it’s a bouncy track you can imagine having a skank to on a festival field.

It’s followed up with Morning Sun – a deliciously leisurely slow-paced spread over six minutes – guitar starts, then the percussion and the rest of the band kick in with a ponderous dreamy intro with keyboard melodies playing over guitar, base and drums and finally the vocals overlay. I really like both tracks but this one’s my favourite – realising it or not you’ll be nodding along probably with a grin on your face.

The best thing though is the promise of more to come – Concrete Rose have started gigging in earnest, annoyingly I’ve not managed to catch them live yet, but I shall certainly be doing so as soon as I can – but also more recorded material in the pipeline too, it seems like the four of them have really gelled to find a creative sweet spot in their songwriting, so it’ll be great to hear what comes next. Keep an eye out for them!

Freeborn Al / 3rd June 2019 / Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos

Star Botherers are Happy and Angry with a new album!

I’ve been looking forward to Star Botherers releasing their album ever since it was announced it was in progress – and by gosh it doesn’t disappoint.  I think all but one of the generous fourteen songs on here I’ve heard performed live, and there’s a fair few that have appeared on EPs released before.  But these familiar friends have been lovingly caressed and enhanced in the studio so even these songs you think you’ve heard before take on new and interesting dimensions without losing their charm.

The once semi-novelty duo – mixing in originals, cover versions and games of bingo into chaotic sets, have been slowly but surely building their portfolio of songs and once you see them laid out here you realise it’s quite an impressive canon.  They’ve managed to retain their fun and irreverence whilst adding layers and sublime production.  Brad has of course joined often on stage to add more intricate percussion, and we’ve seen both Joel and Ellis add extra stringy things of late – and the album is full of this.

Joel too has been responsible for all the technical wizardry in mixing and mastering the now more complicated audio channels – we know from Black Thorn’s album how adept he is at this, and this will sit alongside that as a fine testament to his technical skill.  This really is an album to be proud of – the songs rollercoaster you from amusement, nostalgia, cutting political observations, meloncholy and at times downright hilarity.  Bart is a very clever lyricist and he’s assembled an expert team to augment his guitar in accompanying the words.

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Freeborn Al / 3rd November 2017 / Music, Other Bands, Photos

Resolved..

A malfunction with letting him know my new address means I won’t get my hands on Gaz Brookfield’s new album ’til the weekend. However, a similarly exciting delivery did arrive on my newish doormat this week. A new album by Nick Burbridge is always pretty damn exciting for me – coupled with it being another collaboration with Tim Cotterell and well, excited doesn’t really cover it!

My first impression of this upon opening the jiffy bag on my doormat was that the cover of Resolved is a bit more friendly than its predecessor Gathered was. It seems like ages ago I had the latter in my hand for the first time (I suppose it was – 2012!). I loved it so much I felt compelled to write about it despite not having yet developed writing about music as a hobby. Sixteen tracks promises to be a bumper, although noticing six titled tanka with numbers prompted a quick Google.

A tanka is a short poetic structure from Japan consisting of five lines and 31 syllables. Five in the first and third lines, seven in the remainder, sort of like a haiku plus I suppose. Intriguing! Nick is, after all, a well-regarded poet (and playwright) as well as songwriter. All but the second track are prefixed Song of – a hint of some kind of narrative or journey perchance.

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Freeborn Al / 8th December 2016 / Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Travelling along the ancient road with The Silk Road..

13532968_1136428143093816_260219737519044595_nThe Silk Road was an expansive trade route network enabling Chinese silk to be exported and sold all over the place from two hundred years either side of the birth of Christ.  Or it was also an expansive dark web black market trading platform famed for selling drugs or other illicit items between 2011 until it was shut down by the FBI in 2013.

I checked in with founding member Tich and it turns out both of these things inspired the band name – the three hares symbol linked to the ancient trade route, although nobody really knows the origins of the images – but for the band, it and the name symbolise the universal connections people and places all have with one another.

I first saw The Silk Road the band back at Something To Smile About in their acoustic guise – but I’ve known singer and guitarist Tich for over a year now, and we’ve often nattered at Ferocious Dog gigs about their output.  With extra performances at Estival and Wistful to take in, they’ve also been in the studio to produce a four track EP (well, really it’s five tracks), so it was great to finally get my hands on it courtesy of Tich at the weekend.

As I tend to do I’ve been hammering it on my drives to and from work this week – since I’ve clocked up over five hours of car time in the last two days (damn you, M42!) I feel like I’ve gotten to know this little collection very well indeed.  That said, I’ve certainly not tired of listening to it whilst idly cursing the strange and unexplained concentration of traffic as I trog to and from the West Midlands each day.

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

Let’s get Stoned!

You've Changed EPThis is another review that’s been waiting a bit too long, so apologies are due to Brian Stone!  Brian sent me a sneaky peek of his EP before it was released, and I was poised to write something but he warned me off, unsure how long he’d wait before releasing.  Then he released it pretty much straight after when we went to see The Leylines in Burton, and well, gigs and other things pushed it unforgiveably down my list of things-to-blog.  But I got there in the end!

My first inkling of Brian Stone the performer was after he and Karen kindly let me crash at theirs after Ferocious Dog played in Cambridge last year – on getting back in the evening he casually picked up his guitar and apologetically blasted his way through some Ferocious Dog, Levellers, Gaz Brookfield and Leatherat songs.  Self-depreciating all the way, he played down his own abilities with voice and guitar although clearly seeds were already growing in his mind!

Brian subsequently became a fixture at festival camp fires throughout the summer whilst writing songs and eventually graduating to stages – to which he’s ascended to like a duck takes to water, so an EP was an exciting prospect, a natural progression from the t-shirts (top tip: when in Tenerife, don’t wear a t-shirt that says ‘Brian Brian Brian, Let’s Get Stoned’ on it – you become an absolute magnet for ‘lucky lucky’ drug dealers!).  The artwork design is great, a pretty good representation of Brian as a landlocked musical pirate!

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Freeborn Al / 22nd June 2016 / Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands / 0 Comments

Finally..

a0694865893_16.. the title of the album by Paddy Stratton and Friends, and an apt one for this blog piece too.  I’ve been sat on the CD for a good few weeks now and finally had a chance to have a good listen.  When Simon sent the CD through his name rang a bell, but it wasn’t until reading through the accompanying press release that I realised I’d probably spotted his name in writing credits on Levellers CDs down the years – he co-wrote Believers and contributed All Your Dreams, Sea of Pain and American Airdo to their musical canon.

Getting CDs to listen to and write about still spins me out a bit – I love music, but I’m not musical in any way – but I guess that’s true of a reasonable number if not most music fans out there.  I got the disc just before jetting off on holiday and had a cursory listen and worried it would be one of those occasions that I get something that I don’t get on with, but mentally filed to have a proper go when I got back.  Of course once I was back I’d forgotten until I got a gentle reminder (thanks Simon!) so in between a resurgently busy time of gigging and festivals I’ve now had a chance to get to know it.

My first impressions (pre-holiday) were that whilst I could appreciate the craft of songwriting and quality of the production it was a bit too far down the country and western spectrum for me – however on reappraising I was a bit hasty.  No, very hasty indeed.  It was released back in November 2015 and Paul Fitzgerald shares the writing credit with Paddy – despite enjoying the songs he wrote for the Levellers for many years, he’s never made it onto my radar until now, more’s the pity.

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Freeborn Al / 4th April 2016 / Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Solo acoustic guy..

IMG_2033It’s no secret on these pages that I’m a huge fan of Gaz Brookfield – his latest recorded offering Solo Acoustic Guy landed on my doormat on the day he played Rock City along with Mad Dog Mcrea and Ferocious Dog providing me with the perfect soundtrack for heading on into Nottingham.  It’s a product of an agile musician – announcing the idea, canvassing Facebook fans to choose tracks, recording, producing and sending within a few weeks.

This CD straddles the divide between a studio and live recording – recorded in a studio, but in a one-take live style.  The promise of mistakes, bum notes or forgotten lyrics being included – a warts and all exposé of an artist clearly not feeling too vulnerable with being able to deliver the goods.  Bearing in mind that by the time this was being laid down he was probably already starting to suffer from the lurgy that rendered a couple of FD’s dates sadly Gazless.

For a mere tenner (or more, if you feel generous) you’re treated to nineteen tracks chosen by frequency of comments on his Facebook page, with enthusiastic levels of suggestions from his back catalogue.  Ella and I made it our mission to get Glass Half Empty on there – even though I reckon we are the only ones who put that one forward we were delighted to see it there nestling on track fifteen amongst the other selections people made.

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Freeborn Al / 2nd December 2015 / Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Gaz Brookfield – True and Fast album review..

I’d be amazed if anyone vaguely into Ferocious Dog hasn’t encountered Gaz Brookfield too – he’s been support a few times to the band as well as making starring appearances at the last couple of Dogfests.  I first saw Gaz as the early support act for the Levellers and immediately rushed off to buy an EP – that was obviously a striking occasion as it features in Land Pirate’s Life subsequently.

On that day as a competition prize I was due to collect some merchandise from the Levs backstage so even had the chance to meet him briefly behind the stage at Rock City and congratulate him on a cracking performance – not that I imagine that has stuck in the memory.  I hope not anyway, I was in the midst of a particularly ridiculous Movember effort at the time – but ever since then I’d decided to keep an eye out for him.

Lucky for me then that he subsequently seemed to forge a relationship with the other main band in my life – so as well as taking in as many of his own gigs as I’ve been able to I also benefit from his support slots with FD as well.  The autumn tour will be doubly a treat on this score since he features on the bill for the vast majority of these!  So anyway, background aside, Gaz’s new album True and Fast dropped in my mailbox yesterday much to my excitement.

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Freeborn Al / 6th June 2015 / Music, Other Bands / 0 Comments