An update on my previous blog. Pledge Music have finally been in touch to say they are “doing all they can” to sort out the mess so many of us have been left in. There seems to be a buy out in the wind, though that is not confirmed. At least, this time, Pledge have stated that refunds are one of their priorities, so, hopefully, something will come of it. In the meantime, Diane Birch has launched a Paypal account to raise funds directly for her new album. Details of this account can be found on Diane’s Facebook page, or here: go to paypal.me/churchofbirch and type in the amount.
Elles Bailey has also suffered from the Pledge situation, and she, too, is taking payment directly, via her website ellesbailey.com. The album “Road I call Home” is also available to pre-order from Amazon & iTunes. However this situation has arisen, there is not much worse than losing money due to someone else’s incompetence.
All is proceeding well regards the Foxton Locks festival, with the many behind the scenes dramas and bitching hopefully behind us! There is only one thing worse than a committee, and that is two committees. Smooth sailing from now till the 16th June. Look out for details of another festival I may be involved in, soon. Many of the acts appearing at the Foxton Locksfestival, such as Zoe Green, The Big Wolf Band, Stevie Nimmo & Southbound, can be heard on my Rock, Soul & Blues show on 102.3 HFM , sundays between 16:00 & 19:00. Shameless plug, as they say, but it’s my show!
Speaking of HFM, we have said goodbye to Richard Oliff, who has presented the Drivetime show for the whole 12 years of our existence All of us on the management team and, indeed, all presenters and background staff , are truly grateful for all the work Richard has done, and we wish him all the best in his new life on the south coast. How he managed to present for four hours, five days a week, and keep it fresh sounding, is still a mystery to me.Whilst some have been saying how sad they are, I am truly happy for Richard and Ros as they start a new phase of their lives in a new house and with lots of new opportunities. It also gives Becca Robertson the chance to shine on her new 3-6 Home Run show, as well as enabling us to change a few other things, hopefully for the better.
Can anyone tell me exactly how we have gotten into this mess with Pledge Music? This company is supposed to use OUR money to help artists record albums they might otherwise struggle to raise the money for. It should be a win-win situation. We get the album, the artist gets the money to make the album and Pledge get their cut. Simple enough and it should work out. It has worked out until recently, and now it has all gone horribly wrong. Artists not getting funds, unable to complete work already started, and a company which stresses the importance of the artists (rightly) but with no reference to those who have pledged the money. Needless to say Pledge are not responding to my emails, (except an automated response to say your message has been received) and the banks can only pursue the issue if the payment made is fraudulent, something it would be hard to prove either way. The result, is, we are all in the dark.
When the artist you have pledged music to tells you try to get your money back, there is something terrible going on. Diane Birch is in just this situation, and has stated just that, “try to get your money back”. Awful. Can anyone explain just how this has happened? This is the first time I have engaged in such a thing, and it will be the last. Such disasters are harmful to the very core of the music industry, namely, the artists.
On a lighter note, The Foxton Locks Festival, in aid of the Foxton Incline Plane Trust, takes place on Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th June. The festival, of course, features a fun fair, craft areas, a central Arena for marching bands, battle re-enactments, dog shows, ferret racing, you name it. Harborough FM will be on hand to MC events in the Arena, as well as doing a live broadcast from their sound stage during Graham Beeby’s 10-Noon show. Concession stands with a wide variety of food will be available throughout the day, and, as with every good festival, there will be extensive camping and car parking.
For the music festival, we have a wonderful and varied line-up spread over two stages and a marquee. Music on the Main Stage on Saturday and Sunday varies from Pop to Blues Rock, Jive & Rock N Roll to Soul, and we even have a pirate band, Ooh arghh!
The glamorously titled Other Stage will feature two days of alt.Country & Americana, with a bit of folk mixed in and a remarkable one-man band.
Unlike previous years, tickets will be sold in advance from March 1st. More details on parking, camping and entry prices will be available on the Festivals main website, foxtonlocksfestival.co.uk This will be our biggest festival yet, and we hope it continues to grow.
You know how you are sometimes a little concerned about going to see a new band? Feel a little nervous at a new venue? Well, I have found the answer to that, get out and see as much as you can! I therefore had no such fears about going to see Collateral at The Black Heart, and I was justified in that, being pleasantly surprised and thoroughly enjoying the evening.
How to describe Collateral? Hmm, heavy but with a light touch? Yeah, that will do. Think Foo Fighters & Bon Jovi and you are on the right track. Having said that, this quote from the band in an interview with The Lowdown Magazine, pretty much sums things up: “It’s all about being yourself and not what other people want you to be.” In other words, go see the band and make your own mind up, putting them in categories can be misleading.
The thing I liked best is their combination of aggressive heavy rock numbers and power balls, which lead vocalist Angelo Tristan swapped between without missing a beat -literally! I had heard Collaterals EP Four Shots a number of times before attending the Black Heart, and I was impressed with how easy it is to get into, no need for multiple plays to catch on to the tunes. Their set was an interesting mix of songs from the EP, brand new material from the forthcoming album along with earlier material. (see setlist for details) It has to be said, the whole set worked very well, and the band, clearly playing to a number of their friends as well as the likes of yours truly, were obviously enjoying themselves. One thing I particularly noticed was the high proportion of really good songs, with no duffers at all. To be picky, I think Angelo needs a better line of patter, rather than just gushing about how excited they all were, but that will come, and I really am being picky! Collaterals new Single, Midnight Queen, is out now, and, amongst other gigs, they will be supporting top notch rockers, Bad Touch at The Red Lion, Gravesend Friday, April 26. Be there, I will!
A thoroughly enjoyable time was had by all.
Camden has so many great musical venues, and The Black Heart fits in perfectly. Pretty much my kind of venue, down a dark ally, black walls, floor & ceiling, virtually no lighting and packed full of appreciative fans. The only thing I would say against it, as a none smoker, was that vaping is allowed, which rather surprised me. No need for a smoke machine!
My busy month of gig-going continues, with reviews of Sari Schorr & King King at Rock City, Collateral at The Black Heart, and The Blues Band at The Core @ Corby Cube. Go to my Gig reviews page for more details.
I went to this gig with a friend who had seen King King some time ago, but he had never heard of Sari Schorr, let alone seen her. I’m delighted to tell you, he was not disappointed. Sari blitzed onto the stage in her trademark high-octane style. There are some who find Sari a bit unsettling. Really, I hear you say? There are some who find her sexuality a bit scary. Really? Well, sexy and aggressive she certainly is, but it definitely doesn’t frighten this reviewer, just the opposite. Is it warm in here?!! Starting with The New Revolution, a powerful song dedicated to Martin Luther King Jnr, the energy level never lets up. Even the slower numbers have an edge and a tension to them.
Assisted by her terrific band (though missing Bob Fridzema), Sari then flew into Damn The Reason, one of my favourite tracks from her first album, and the only one in the set not on her latest. She then boldly tackled Bad Company’s Ready forLove. The only thing better than that, would be a duet between Sari and Paul Rogers. Oh gosh, there’s an idea. By now the audience was building up and the bar was empty as a number of people got their first sight and sound of Sari. More high energy for The King of Rock N Roll, an odd title for a song about Robert Johnson and the bitter Thank You (for nothing).
Never say Never is, of course, the title track from Saris’ second album. It was written in the 90s by Ian McLagan, and featured on one of his solo albums. It is a sombre,”never loved anyone but you” type of song, and it has found its perfect interpreter in Schorr, with a performance conveying a deep sense of loss combined with anger and resignation. The set was finished by Maybe I’m Fooling and the thunderous Valentina – a song about the downside of life after the fame has gone and including the unforgettable line ‘we love you but your name we can’t remember’. The reception for Saris’ set was terrific, and I believe she made a lot of new fans tonight. My friend and fellow gig-goer, Darrell, was straight onto his phone to let his wife know they have found a new artist to follow.
The New Revolution
Damn The Reason
Ready For Love
King Of Rock n Roll
Never Say Never
Maybe I’m Fooling
The Wee Fella
This is, clearly, not an accurate description of Al Nimmo, but it’s what his big brother Stevie calls him, so let’s not argue! I’ve been following King King since their formation, and have seen them numerous times. I have a fair idea what they might play, so it was a pleasant surprise tonight to hear songs from albums spanning their whole career, many of which they have not performed live before. No pressure!
Along with classics such as Rush Hour, Waking Up, Broken and the always mesmerizing You Stopped the Rain, we were treated to Betrayed Me, Takemy Hand and Old Love, all performed with the usual high energy. Nimmo is an irresistible force when in motion and as usual, he was driven along by Proctor, Coulson and Dyke, who once again proved that, whilst Nimmo is very much the Boss, they are also a very effective unit, everyone having a major part to play. This will be co-founder Coulsons’ last tour with the band, as he wants to spend more time with his family, and this is clearly an emotive issue. Losing such an integral part of the band will be hard to deal with. Good luck to the person whom they find to fill the bass playing role.
My favourite songs tonight were in direct contrast with each other. I’ve always loved (Rest Your Eyes) I’m coming Home. It is a beautiful song, with an almost dream-like tune and one of the few songs yours truly actually sings along to! The contrast is the almost tragic Find Your Way Home, a powerful song about relationships going wrong. Al dedicated it to all the Dads and Children in the audience, a song written from direct experience, perhaps? Whatever the facts, this was yet another fine gig and a thoroughly enjoyable set. I am sure this will not be the last time I see King King, but I wonder what the line-up will be like in a year or two.
Heart Without a Soul
Heed The Warning
(She Don’t) Gimme No Lovin’
Take a Look
You Stopped The Rain
Find Your Way Home
Take My Hand
A little footnote: On all my previous visits to Rock City, the decor has looked as if it hasn’t been painted for decades, and it has been hard to lift ones feet, due to the rather sticky floor. This time, the floors had been cleaned and there was a distinct smell of disinfectant and cleaning fluid. Some might consider this an improvement, some might not. For me, the jury is out!
How do you describe Sugaray Rayford? Virtually impossible, but a good way to start would be to refer to his band, whose previous credits include a Who’s Who of the music industry. Guitarist Alistair Greene was formally with the Alan Parsons Project, as well as fronting his own band; Keys player Drake Shining played with Deep Purple & Al Green; drummer Lavell Jones has worked with Neil Diamond, Seal, Little Milton and Lucky Peterson among others; Sax & trumpet players Aaron Liddard & Giles Straw were both part of Amy Winehouse’ band and bassist Allen Markel has spent many years playing and recording with artists in Jazz, Latin, Blues Soul etc etc. With a band like that, what could go wrong? Well, nothing.
Sugaray himself, has a wonderful line on outrageous but not vulgar patter. There is much talk about big legged, big booty women, including the phrase “I like a booty so big, the jeans need four pockets on the back”!! You get the picture. All of this is delivered with a smile and a raucous laugh that defies you to be offended. Judging by the squeals of laughter from the heavily female audience, I don’t think offence was taken. And, he sings as well! He is one of those singers who seems to put so little effort into his singing, but the audience reaps the reward. Soulful, bluesy and jazzy, his style encompasses songs as varied as his own “Stuck for a buck”, “Keep her at home”, “Big legs, short skirts”, “Depression blues”, along with a menacing cover of Bill Withers “Who is he and what is he to you?” and that classic William Bell song “Born under a bad sign”. All of this blended so well together, it felt like all the songs were his. To prove Sugarays’ bold statement his band could do “any song I ask them to”, Drake took the lead vocal on a funky version of “Comfortably Numb”, and, yes, it did work. It must be a joy for a sideman to work with someone like Sugaray, as he is generous in affording solos to each member of the band. Above all, everyone on stage looks like they are having a really good time. The audience certainly were.
Ah, but that’s not all. Kicking off the evening was as great a contrast in style as you can imagine. Jo Harman, known for her live album “At Hideaway” and her recent studio album “People we become”, played a very paired down set which contrasted nicely with the brash almost Big Band sound of Sugaray. Accompanied by just guitar and keyboards, Jo did versions of her own songs “No one left to blame”, “I shall not be moved”, and “When we were young”. In addition, she performed a wonderful version of Goffin & Kings “Will you love me tomorrow?”. The set was all to brief, in my opinion, but it was good to see Jo live at last. Her powerful and versatile voice and confident singing style were a sharp contrast with her shy, almost nervous chatter with the audience, but even that had its own appeal. Jo Harman achieved something rare tonight; she made the notoriously chatty 100 Club audience shut up and just listen to her beautiful voice. This was no little achievement and much appreciated by those of us who just like to listen!
Ben Poole rocks Putney, or It’s out there, you just need to find it!
People ask me how I come across so many new artists for my radio show? Well, the answer is getting out there and finding them. There are plenty of them around, but it needs people to turn out in numbers to keep it going. That said, it was terrific to see so many people out to see Ben Poole at The Half Moon in Putney on December 12, 2018. Ben was at the end of a long tour and looking forward to some time off.* There was no slacking in his performance, though, and the packed house was treated to a wonderful night of rock, blues and soul with a strong English twist.
Although the blues-rock scene in the UK is relatively small (compared with a) how it used to be and b) the general pop scene) this has the advantage of many musicians having multiple roles and bands. Such is the case here, with Ben Pooles’ drummer (and producer) being Wayne Proctor, of King King fame. It’s great to see a band as tight as this, with all four musicians working together with such a strong understanding. This was particularly true of the spellbinding version of Have you ever loved a woman, which started as a gentle number, with Ben almost in the audience, and accelerated into a rousing hard blues that had us all mesmerised. Pooles voice is hardly more than a whisper at times, but is very effective, as is his superb guitar playing, which rangers from heavy rock to subtle soulful blues with equal ease. Swapping riffs with his keyboard player was a highlight and the addition of keys always makes for a much fuller sound. Speaking of sound, it was particularly clear tonight, loud but sharp. Thank goodness and quality speakers for an end to the ringing in the ears of gigs gone by.
Most of the songs tonight came from Bens’ latest album Anytime You NeedMe, a cracking album, packed with joyful, rocking numbers. My own favourite, and one I play a lot on Harborough FM, is Start The Car, though there were terrific renditions of five other songs from the album.
Venues such as Wembley Arena and the O2 have a great appeal and atmosphere, and I am sure all bands would love to play there, but for me, gigs at venues like this are the best. Thanks to Ben Poole and his band for a splendid evening.
Take It No More
Start The Car
Have You Ever Loved A Woman?
The Question Why?
Further On Down The Line
Don’t Cry For Me
Let’s Go Upstairs
Stay At Mine
Anytime You Need Me
Thanks to Patrick Haveron for the set list
*He didn’t get it, though, as at the time of writing he was on tour in Europe, and in May 2019, he will be special guest on Ana Popovic’s UK tour! Keep listening, Keep it Live
One of my duties within HFM is to train up new presenters. Our main way of getting new input is through our yearly Introduction To Radio course. The intention of it is to simply inform people of how a radio station works. It is not, as I always tell people, a guarantee of a place on the station, but each course throws up at least one person with the right stuff. The types of people who turn up vary, from the ‘desperately keen’, to the ‘just want to see how things work’ via the ones who simply assume we will fall over ourselves to get them on the station, just because they are so fab. Well, the latter never get anywhere. There is ego in wanting to be on the radio, for sure, but self-criticism is a key element in any successful presenter. Believing you are really good is, in my opinion, a sure sign you are not! Self-doubt is not helpful, but self-criticism is. I am sure someone, somewhere, will call that micro definition, but all the best presenters on HFM have the ability to acknowledge their own faults.
This years course was a particularly good one. Perhaps we are getting better at our presentation, perhaps this years students were particularly nice people. Whatever the circumstances, it all went very smoothly, and it was nice to receive compliments from a number of the attendees after the course finished. Now the lengthy process of trying to find and get the keen ones up to speed. What with studio time being limited, work getting in the way, and the inevitable changes and cancellations, this training phase can take a long time.
As ever, thanks are due to the indefatigable graham Beeby, who holds the sessions together and allows Chris Jones, Owen Brooks and myself to go off at tangents. Thanks are also due to all the presenters who give up their time to come in and talk to the students about just what HFM means to them. I am always interested by the variety of responses. Some regard it as a great alternative to their day jobs, some hope it will be a step to other things, some feel it is the one stable thing in otherwise turbulent lives, and some simply think of it as just the best hobby anyone can have. Whatever the individual feelings, everyone has one thing in common; the desire not only to be on radio, but to be on HFM. It is about what you can do for HFM, but it certainly gives back.
Leading on from this, I am often asked why we don’t have many women on HFM, and I tend to throw the answer straight back. In truth, fewer women come forward on each course than men, and even fewer want to go on to any serious training. Why? I have no idea, which is why I throw the question back. Harborough FM is not alone in this, if you look at the non-specific Community stations (ie non religious in nature, non political and not aimed at specific members of the community, such as the handicapped or elderly), you will find the same picture. Stations run by old or middle-aged men. There has to be something in that! “Boys Toys” perhaps? Other stations have more women than we do, but none have anything like parity. This is, obviously, something that concerns us, so if there is a way of improving things, let me know.
Ok, so I have seen Joe Bonamassa several times, and, after seeing him at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis on November 14, I have to ask myself some questions:
Does he stay the same? Er, no!
Does his music and musicianship continue to grow? Well, yes.
Is this the best gig by him you have seen? Yes, amazingly, it was.
One of the great things about Bonamassa is his versatility, not just musically, but also in the role he plays within the band. Unlike many star musicians, he can be very generous in the time he gives his sidemen and women. This Concert was a prime example of such generosity. Backed by Lee Thornburg on trumpet, Paulie Cerra on sax, Reese Wynans on keys, Anton Fig on drums and Michael Rhodes on bass, as well as backup singers Mahalia Barnes & Jade McCrae, he gave solos to all, most especially to Wynans, who has the remarkable distinction of having played for Joe Bonamassa AND Stevie Ray Vaughan. If you can find a better pair of guitarists, then please let me know! Fig plays drums with an attack that makes you feel he is making up for all those years in TV studios, and the sight of the wraithlike Rhodes trading riffs with Bonamassa is a sight to behold.
The show started with a barnstorming version of King Bee Shakedown and roared on from there. There was a really slick feel about this show, why, the singers and horns even had choreography! The audience was really receptive and knowledgeable, unlike some audiences, who seem to think yelling “You the man” every song, or standing and blocking people’s view somehow contributes to the success of the evening. Just thought I’d get that dig in!
The setlist was well balanced between originals and covers, with dynamic versions of several songs from his latest album, Redemption. Despite the quality of Bonamassa’s studio recordings, the live versions are often even better, and the breathtaking version of Self Inflicted Wounds was a case in point. Performed very close to the original, but with extraordinary vocals from McRae at the end. Hopefully, a live version will be released at some point, as it really has to be heard to be believed. I can still feel the shivers down my spine! Perhaps the standout song, however, was the ten minute plus version of Breaking Up Someones Home, which featured solos from Wynans and Bonamassa, as well as additional vocals from McRae, Barnes and Thornburg.
The previous time I saw Joe Bonamassa, he was on his British Blues Explosion tour. I really enjoyed that concert, but it is always nice to see him play outside any boundaries, and that is exactly what he did tonight, playing with that combination of control and abandon that the best guitarists have. I look forward to seeing Joe many more times, and really hope this particular version of his band stays together.
There are some acts and musicians you think of as being just part of your past, and should be confined there! Then there are some, whom you just can’t resist seeing, even if the part they played in your life was a long time ago, but it meant a lot to you at the time. Corky Laing is one of the latter. I remember the influence Mountain had on myself and many of my contemporaries in the late 60s/early 70s, so I jumped at the opportunity to see him at The 100 Club on October 9. Corky was accompanied by Mark Mikel on bass & vocals and Chris Shutters on guitar, flute and vocals.
More later, as before Corky there were, as is usual at the Tuesday night blues clubs, two other acts on the bill. First up, the slightly oddly named John Doe Trio, led by Phil Woollett on vocals and guitar, withCraig Ferguson on Bass and Paul Townsend on Drums. Good sound, good songs and a nice edge to the band that set them aside from the usual.
Here is their CD
Next up were Southbound, whom I had seen just a few days before at the Half Moon in Putney. My initial impression of them was amplified (literally!) here. For such a young band, they have a great feel for and understanding of the music of The Allman Brothers (early days), Peter Greens Fleetwood Mac, and Santana. Imagine a funky Allman Brothers without the interminable jams and solos, and you are pretty much there. The addition of a keyboard player, described by vocalist Tom Ford as their schools maths teacher (!) further broadened their sound, and I am sure they have a great future. A strong line in London patter doesn’t hurt either. You will be able to see them at the Foxton Locks Festival on June 16 2019, though you would be wise to catch them before that if you can.
And so to the main event. Whatever else one may have thought about tonight, there is no doubt that Corky Laing is still a remarkable drummer, a kind of controlled Keith Moon, and the guys were proof that three piece bands can be subtle as well as powerful. Okay, there were problems with the sound, and, it being late at night a number of people had left well before the end, but it was still a really good gig, with the stand out track an unusual but very successful version of Nantucket Sleighride. Corky had a nice line in chat, and I liked his story about failing to get the girl at a certain gig, but getting to write Mississippi Queen about her afterwards! A good night all round. Corky Laing setlist is attached below.
Heres to many more nights like this at the 100 Club