They’re so pretty, oh so pretty..

Pretty Babs seem to have appeared on the scene pretty damn suddenly – and bam, they have an album pretty much ready to drop.

It’s true that they appeared made up of people that I was already very familiar with – Sam Jones on guitar and lead vocals has appeared on these pages loads, and Liam Bainbridge of course played bass in his self-named band (and I’m sure featured with Brad Dear at some point pre-blog days) – and on drums there’s Brad Drury, of course formerly of Ferocious Dog and occasional Star Botherer.  So familiar faces in a slightly less familiar setting.

The thing that struck me when I first saw Pretty Babs live was that Sam’s powerful voice has been absolutely crying out for a heavier backing track than he formerly had – either just with his acoustic guitar or band.  So taking a step back from the folkier bluesier sound and getting down and dirty with some more grungy rock has been a revelation – so obvious, but it’s easy to say that with hindsight.  They’ve clicked though, and landed on a sound that is both engaging and, dare I say, has the potential to be commercially successful too (like I know anything about that, ha!).

So, Graffiti Lights is their debut album – complete with artwork by The Famous Artist Birdy Rose, and I’ve been getting to grips with it for longer than I ought to have before getting this written down.  I was going to drop Sam a message and ask why on earth they plumped for Pretty Babs as a name, but decided against it – I really have absolutely no idea!  It’s certainly catchy though – it always makes me smile as the canteen ladies at my office in Solihull always call me ‘Bab’ when they hand me a tea or coffee – I think that the Solihull canteen ladies would probably surmise that Sam, Liam and Brad are indeed pretty babs.  So maybe that’s it.

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Freeborn Al / 11th April 2017 / Music, Other Bands, Photos

The year the music died?

Image credit: christhebarker

2016 will probably go down as one of those years where sad news overshadowed the good – certainly that was true for me both in personal terms, which I won’t cover here, but also the seemingly relentless march of famous icons being taken by the grim reaper.  Just as we were coming to terms with Lemmy passing away at the end of 2015, in 2016 we’d be constantly reminded by social media of a glittering parade of cultural icons shuffling from this mortal coil.

David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, Jimmy Bain, Terry Wogan, Harper Lee, Frank Kelly, George Martin, Keith Emerson, Frank Sinatra Jr, Paul Daniels, Ronnie Corbett, David Gest, Victoria Wood, Lonnie Mack, Prince, John Berry, Nick Menza, Muhammad Ali, Henry McCullough, Anton Yelchin, Caroline Aherne, Kenny Baker, Dalian Atkinson, Gene Wilder, Pete Burns, Leonard Cohen, Andrew Sachs, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Rick Parfitt, George Michael, Liz Smith, Richard Adams, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.

That’s not an exhaustive list, I’m sure, but that’s not really what I wanted this blog post to be about – but you can’t really do a review of the year without mentioning the elephant in the room.  As with seemingly most things these days it caused ruckuses on Facebook with folk taking to social media to express their sadness whilst others get irked at seeming over-emotionalness.  Certainly there’s a lot in that list who whilst I’ve never met have had huge influences over my life, and I felt genuine sadness at them moving on – some seemingly far too early, others having reached a ripe of age.

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Freeborn Al / 30th December 2016 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Bonus last gig of the year..

I’ve already gotten half-way through a review of 2016, but managed to sneak a cheeky bonus gig in last night.  Having met up with some former workmates for an epic burger at Annie’s Burger Shack I found myself in Nottingham either at a loose end or ready to head home.  Luckily for me I knew Sam Jones and Spud were appearing at a Roots Acoustic night at The Pit & Pendulum – since it was just around the corner it seemed rude not to pop along for a bit.

As I was driving and have work in the morning it wasn’t ever going to be a long night – but certainly a worthwhile diversion!  I got to the venue just to see what I presume was the first act finishing up, so apologies about that (I can’t find who it was either, d’oh!), but he was an acoustic cover of a Radiohead song and sounded great.  Meanwhile I’d found Sam, Spud and Chris propping up the bar.  I’ve used the Pit a few times as a pre-gig venue, I’d never really thought of it as a music venue itself.

It works pretty well though – the Pelham Street side made up the music venue, with folk in the Victoria Street side having a few beers.  It’s a shame more folk didn’t venture to the music half, but I suppose between Christmas and New Year isn’t the best time to expect big crowds.  There were a few folk wandering in and around though to appreciate what was on offer.  No matter how many people are in it always seems to take me ages to get served in there, I wasn’t even wearing any camo!

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Freeborn Al / 30th December 2016 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

T’was Dogfest eve, babe..

Thanks John 🙂

With reports of the awful incident that caused the M1 to be closed on Friday (obviously thoughts and best wishes to everyone affected by that) I set off early to make it up to the Black Market Venue in time for us to get set up and soundchecked as we were up first for pre-Dogfest Stars Bothering on Friday.  I picked up magician Tom en route – more on his awesome skills later – and mercifully was able to get to Warsop in time and get the van parked up in the car park.

We got ourselves all set up as The Star Copiers – during the soundcheck the cajón was sounding huge – I think it could’ve done with turning up a bit during the set.  Alas I didn’t realise ’til it was too late, never mind!  As for our set, we left feeling a bit disappointed – we dropped a sound to make sure we could fit in Merry Christmas Everyone at the end and well, we all felt like we’d made a few too many mistakes.  Whilst we don’t take ourselves remotely seriously we do want to be as good as we can be!

That said, the first thing that happened when I got off the stage was to be faced by Rob who said “Al, I’m really disappointed” – I was about to concede we were a bit too, only for him to follow up with “I was expecting it to be all tuneless and rubbish!” – maybe it’s true you’re your own worst critics!  Either way, we had some fun and we started distributing the CDs we’ve had made to raise money for Framework.  The raffle on the night was also supporting them, not to mention the collection of food and toiletries occuring the next day too.

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Freeborn Al / 18th December 2016 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Geddin’ on Farmer Phil’s land.. part two..

I'm dead when Ella sees this!

I’m dead when Ella sees this!

Saturday morning came and despite the strange cold-like thing I’d had the night before I felt fine aside from a bit snotty, which is a bonus!  Speaking of Snotty, she had an appointment with an open-mic night where Morganella were scheduled to perform – so our first order of business was to head over a couple of fields where clan Parry were camped for an opportunity to rehearse a bit, grabbing a coffee en route.

By the time we’d finished and headed up to the arena it was lunchtime, nachos were my weapon of choice, we munched food whilst Emma and the Professor were getting started, it provided a most excellent soundtrack for a nice lunch – I only caught Kisses Sweeter Than Wine amongst the set before we decided to check out the shops.  I had designs on a poncho – as The Mighty Boosh rightly states, it’s impossible to feel sad in a poncho!

IMG_5075Whilst shopping though I was drawn down the bank to the second stage where Guitar Cubed were playing Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd – one of my favourite songs, and done justice here.  They moved on to Hey Jude before I headed back off up the hill to find Ella mooching around the shops some more.  It was a shame not to have had the chance to catch more of their set though, the little bit I caught sounded great (I managed to miss getting a photo too).

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Freeborn Al / 17th August 2016 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

A pissed fool at Wistful (part one)..

IMG_4568There’s no greater frustration than working the day you’re heading to a festival – coupled with that, I was waiting for a delivery so even when I’d worked my way through my to do list for the day I was still waiting to set off to Wistful Festival.  The Parcel Force man arrived, I hit the road and got to Hankin Farm by early evening on Thursday – the lovely folk that run the farm were on hand to arrange payment for the camping, and after a few attempts I found a good flattish bit of the field to get set up.

The van sorts itself out for the most part, I’d packed the teepee too for Becki and Emma who were arriving the next day and brought a gazebo as an experimental awning substitute.  Soon enough I had everything where I wanted it, greeted the neighbours (Mary, Rachel, Spike, Beth, Christina, Julie, Mark and The Seabridges amongst others!) and headed down to the arena where a film screening was happening courtesy of a projector and a white screen on the side of Paul and Lisa’s caravan.

A fun way to pass the evening – although the temperature dropped ludicrously after dark – still, cider and mead flowed nicely and Paige and I fought for the attentions of Alfie and Pebble the dachsunds (furry hot water bottles!) before starting to wander back up the hill.  A campfire drew me over where rum was flowing, and Brian and Jonny were entertaining us with guitars and songs – perfect wind down before the lure of bed finally took over.  The first time I’d slept in Ludo on my own, which was a bit weird!

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Freeborn Al / 17th July 2016 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 1 Comment

Way on down South with Sam Jones..

13267925_784096115059711_8153355590290363630_nI’m a bit overdue writing about Sam Jones‘ new EP – he put it out at the back end of May, I excitedly downloaded it, listened to it, loved it, then got distracted in a flurry of new music acquired after Bearded Theory and Something to Smile About – but I’ve re-found it and it’s been accompanying me to and from work for the last couple of days.  It’s a splendid collection of songs.

Sam is similar to Brad Dear in that he has a voice that doesn’t belong with someone so young – his range of gritty blues through to more melodic folksy stylings seem effortless live when you see him, and it’s true of the recorded tracks too.  Couple that with awesome guitar work – and layers of backing instrumentals and percussion laid down by his producer Jack during the studio time in London, and you have five special tracks.

It’s funny how the music industry works – you have the Ed Sheerans and Jake Buggs of this world who sky-rocket to stardom, I always wonder what that catalyst is – don’t get me wrong, I rather like Jake Bugg.  Ed Sheeran less so, but I do wonder what spark of luck thrusts their undeniable talent into such fierce limelight whilst someone like Sam and countless other performing artists I know are left – to coin a phrase from Gaz Brookfield – one step left of limelight.

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

Brad-bothering on Sunday..

IMG_4165I’d deliberately planned a quiet weekend for the one just gone, and it was very welcome – a chance to relax, watch the England match with my Dad and generally not be dashing about all over the place was great.  But come Sunday with the working week looming I had a craving, and spotting Brad Dear was playing at the Workman’s in Warsop for Star Bothering on Sunday I fired off a WhatsApp message to Andy to see if he fancied a sedate road trip oop North.

He was!  So we were off – Brad was due to play as well as of course a bit of Star Botherers and a couple more acts… or so we thought.  A young lass due to play did arrive, but hadn’t realised the start time would be a bit later and had another open mic night to play, a pity – Bart too wasn’t around so no Star Botherers – and I’m not sure what happened to the third act – Warren Ireland – but well, it all worked out pretty well for us all told.

Brad arrived – and with a fairly small crowd of friends to watch we basically had a lovely ‘evening with Brad’ – he kicked off the evening, unusually opting to sit down with his guitar (I think he wanted the novelty of moving a mic-stand downward.  A quick initial set took in the likes of Far AwayFestival Bar Blues (see first video) and Maid of the River (unprompted – and my favourite Levellers song too!).  With just a few locals, Dave and myself and Andy initially it was a very up-close and personal session!

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Freeborn Al / 13th June 2016 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos / 0 Comments

Disarm you with a smile..

IMG_4102Late on Saturday Ella and Morgan had sneakily secured themselves an open mic slot on the hidden stage.  As Sunday morning came I was up and ready way before the performer – luckily for me I scored some bacon and and egg from Herb to cook up for breakfast to stick on a sandwich, thanks Herb!  We alternated kettle boiling whilst the rest of the camp got themselves mustered.

I sneakily told as many people as I could about the imminent performance – given the relative earliness of the hour – Mick had come round to say goodbye, but was eager to stay to watch, and we managed to round up a few more folk to get a bit of a crowd ready to head on down to the hidden stage where last minute rehearsals / discussions were taking place, whilst the stage crew got everything plugged in and soundchecked.

Morgan – as noted yesterday – had been writing down guitar chords during The Leylines set, then wasted no time in teaching himself Run For Cover overnight, which was the song they opened up with.  As Ella spent time in the recording studio with The Leylines and did backing vocals for that particuar song – it was one she didn’t need any lyrical help with at all!  It sounded lovely, to my admittedly biased ears.

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Freeborn Al / 8th June 2016 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos, Videos / 0 Comments

Nearstock..

IMG_3824For Nearstock we had the sublime good fortune to have the opportunity to crash with Paul and Sarah who live in the village it was hosted.  We got there early and were treated to barbecued burgers and chips sat by a fire pit Paul had been itching to set fire to ever since we arrived.  With Andy arriving shortly after it was a fun afternoon of food and beers before wandering to the pub.

The beer garden of The Royal Oak played host to the taster of what is to come at Deerstock in a couple of months, the party was already in swing when we arrived – Nirvana played from the sound system, upon gaining entry and getting wristbanded up by Pat we were accosted by Joe with the charity bucket, along with a warning that he’d be haranguing us all day and all night.

He wasn’t wrong!

IMG_3800First act up was Jake Smallbones – a solo acoustic guitar performer, he’d got the tough slot of ‘people arriving or working their way around the crowd’ – that said, he was an engaging and tuneful performer.  At a glance he looked a bit like Nick Parker – Ella thought a cross between him and Gaz Brookfield, but I couldn’t see that!  He started up with On The Road and then Falling for Another.

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Freeborn Al / 16th May 2016 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments