120. CHANTEL McGREGOR at THE NEW CRAWDADDY CLUB, Billericay, Essex. Interview and gig review (+ support from the House Band THE HEATERS). Friday 5th August 2016.

Chantel in conversation with The Quill (Pic: PTMQ)

Chantel in conversation with The Quill (Pic: PTMQ)

Preamble: Over the last couple of years friends and acquaintances have been urging me to go and see rock guitarist Chantel McGregor; so this is something that’s been on my wish list for a while now. Unfortunately, every time I thought I’d get to one of her gigs, something cropped up to prevent me from going! I’m glad to say that that is a situation that’s at last been put right, because my son James and I were able to get down to see her at the New Crawdaddy Blues Club, Billericay, Essex, on a very warm summer Friday evening recently – and furthermore, she kindly agreed to an interview beforehand.

The Interview was arranged rather hastily when we arrived at the club (thanks to Karen of the NCBC and Chantel’s team); and James and I were soon invited back-stage to the Green Room. Chantel is a friendly, approachable and modest Yorkshire lass from Bradford; and welcomed us warmly, introducing us to the band. These are: Colin Sutton (bass); Andy Mapp (drums); and keeping an eye on things as well as being van driver and ‘general dog’s-body’, Chantel’s Dad, Alan McGregor. All were chilling out with a pre-show pizza!

(Pic: PTMQ)

(Pic: PTMQ)

I’ve never written about Chantel before, so we asked her to tell us how it all began. (At this point my dictaphone decided to pack up; leaving me to take notes the old fashioned way; so I must apologise for the lack of proper quotes!) But she told us that she began playing guitar from the age of three. Her Dad Alan was playing rock gigs, so its something that she’s always known. At around twelve she was playing stuff like Metallica and Grateful Dead; and after concentrating on her studies she started gigging with her own band around Bradford at the age of 21; covering the likes of Trower and Tull, as well as ‘more obscure covers’; and developing a fan base. From the age of 25-ish she began penning her own material. She’s now 30 – so a good 90% of her life has been dedicated to guitar music!

Her influences are eclectic; but she particularly mentioned Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree as influencing her wonderful BBA nominated song ‘Walk On Land’; Sound Garden (for her ‘Your Fever’); Jeff Buckley (for ‘Eternal Dream’); and poet Nick Drake (for inspiring ‘Anaesthetize’ – her song about addiction). And she has what she termed as ‘Sponge Days’, where she chills out watching TV; reading books and poetry; and generally absorbing the world around her and all its arts. This inspires her music and lyric writing… and it seems to be working well, I must say!

(Pic: PTMQ)

(Pic: PTMQ)

We asked her about her recent jam with Joe Bonamassa. ‘I Emailed Joe, and he rang back’ she said. JB invited her to his gig in Manchester for a chat, and she ended up jamming on stage with him. She has also met Clapton; Raitt; and Fleetwood Mac. This hasn’t done her international profile any harm at all; and she now has a thriving US fan Club – but no plans as yet for a US tour.

So what has the lady got planned for the near future I wondered? She is planning an acoustic album at the moment; for which she has twelve pages of themes and lyrics written out already. This is a project that will be worth checking out, as she is as adept with the acoustic as with the electric; and various songs on her two albums can testify to that. Apparently just before we arrived, Chantel gave an impromptu acoustic performance after the sound check, for those in the audience who’d arrived early enough; after someone had asked about the chords she used for a particular song.

Chantel had also recently dislocated her knee after a bizarre accident at home; ‘…and I wasn’t even drunk!’ she laughed. She was strapped up in a leg brace. ‘I’m walking like a penguin’ she said. But to be honest it was hardly noticeable covered in her long black dress, and she carried on regardless.

(Pic: PTMQ)

(Pic: PTMQ)

We thanked her for speaking to us, and after a few photos, we returned to the auditorium. Whilst we’d been talking to Chantel, we could hear the House Band, The Heaters, playing their covers set. It sounded good, but we only caught the end of it unfortunately.

The gig: It wasn’t long before Chantel was climbing on stage. Alone, She donned her acoustic and began to play the wonderful ‘Home’; followed by ‘Anaesthetize’. Then she was joined by the band for the haunting ‘Inconsolable’; half way through, seemlessly changing from acoustic to Strat for a lengthy and superb solo – the boys in the band providing a reliable framework for the lady to improvise at will. For me this was an early highlight of the show.

Time for some Hard Rock then! ‘Freefalling’ from the debut album hit us next. And this was quickly followed by the Sound Garden influenced ‘Your Fever’. Excellent! And the rockers kept coming: ‘Burn Your Anger’; and ‘Lose Control’ (the title track from the latest album); continued the vibe, before she played the bluesy ‘I’m No Good For You’ off her debut album Like No Other.

But another highlight was due…she played a Prog-Rock instrumental called ‘Summat About Flies’ which pretty much blew me away! It was this number more than any other which demonstrated her consummate fretboard skills; and I was very impressed by it indeed.  (Watch it here thanks to Paul Hawley). I was then left wondering how on Earth she could possibly follow that! ‘Shall we do err..’ she said ‘…’Purple “something?”… yes it was the old Prince classic! And what a sublime cover it was too. Probably the best cover of it I’ve ever heard – she made it her own.

Then Chantel introduced the band, and thanked all present, before launching into the magnificent BBA nominated ‘Walk On Land’. This provided the finale to the main set. Again a truly wonderful rendition with a fine solo; and an apt song to end on. Inevitably, ‘Encore!’ was of course demanded; and was duly given in the form of ‘Take The Power’ – the opening track to her latest album Lose Control. Phew!

Throughout the gig Chantel’s playing was very impressive; and matched only by her faultless vocals, which were clear and beautiful. She has a great confidence and repartee with the audience too, which is something I like to see and hear from performers. All in all it was a fantastic gig – and I now know what I’ve been missing out on! I’ll see her show again, for sure. So if you haven’t seen Ms. McGregor yet, don’t delay – buy the tickets ASAP!

Thanks to Chantel and her fine band and support team; and to Paul Dean and all the wonderful volunteers at The New Crawdaddy for once again putting on a cracking show. PTMQ

Chantel’s website

New Crawdaddy’s website

119. ALI MAAS & MICKY MOODY “Black & Chrome” (Armadillo, 2016)

cache_3875608

(Pic: MM website)

Well, you don’t have to be a genius to make an educated guess that an album with the names Ali Maas and Micky Moody writ large on the sleeve is going to be a winner. If you have the slightest doubt about that, then all you need to do is place Black & Chrome in the CD player, and within seconds your doubts would be allayed. For some time now, I’ve rated Ms Maas as one of several exceptionally good female vocalists currently working in the UK; and Mr.Moody has been on the Quill’s geetar maestro shortlist for decades! Furthermore I’ve met them both and they’re thoroughly nice people. (See my gig review #23).

Black & Chrome is an eleven track collection of original works penned by Moody and Maas themselves. It covers a good and varied range of Blues and Blues-based styles; and it is a tangible display of both the performing, as well as the song-writing skills of this remarkable pairing. They’ve been working together for some time now, and their collaborations are a joy to hear (and see live). They both have their own individual projects of course but have come together (as they often do) for this work, and have created something very special indeed.

Right from the wonderful opening track ‘Horse Or A Harley’, the bar is set high; but the excellent second offering ‘Why Does A Man’ (‘…who says he loves me, make me cry’?) fully rises to the challenge….and so it continues. From the acoustic beauty of ‘Hanging On A Chain’; through the Elmore-esque ‘Same Blues, Different Day’; to the soulful ‘A Change In Everything’ with its fine solo. From the shuffle ‘Taking Me Home’; through the raw Blues of ‘Do Some Time’; to the Country vibe of ‘Farewell To All The Sad Songs’. And from the heart-felt love song ‘Here I Stay’; through the Funky Blues of ‘Hell Bent’ with its Albert King-like guitar; to the final fun number ‘Now I Got My Mojo Back’; the quality is high, and the range of style/genre is impressively broad.

Ali’s vocals are wonderful throughout (as we’ve come to expect) – full of passion and drive. She conveys the tenderness or pain of love; as necessary with a controlled and impressive ease. Her backing vocals / harmonies are great too.

And Micky’s guitar-work is (not surprisingly) superb as well – thoughtful, inventive solos, and interesting rhythm parts make his input a joy to hear. But what I particularly liked was his trade-mark slide-work of which I have been an admirer of since the 70s. MM also played bass, mando, B-bender; and console steel guitars on various tracks too; as well as singing lead vocal on ‘Taking Me Home’.

M & M are assisted in their endeavors by some fine musos: Jimmy Copley (drums); Ian Jennings (bass); Ollie Parfitt (keys); Jon Buckett (keys); Alan Glen (harp); Nick Newall (flute / sax); and Micky Moody Jnr (percussion). All very impressive artists indeed.

The CD comes in a card tri-fold case with the disc fitted centrally. It contains photos and basic info / credits etc; but no lyrics unfortunately, which is a shame because the words to some of these songs are interesting and inventive. If you like a bit of variety within yer Blues, I’d say its a must buy album (and must go and see live) – you won’t be disappointed! PTMQ

Micky Moody’s website

Ali Maas’ website

118. THE CADILLAC KINGS “The Secret Of My Success” (33 Records, 2016)

(Pic: Proper Records)

(Pic: Proper Music)

When Mike Thomas of The Cadillac Kings offered me a copy of the band’s new album The Secret Of My Success recently, I jumped (or should that be jump-jived!) at the chance to review it. Right from the kick-off you know what you’re in for with this album – its a white knuckle ride of foot-tappin’ musical fun at the Swing / Jive / R’n’R end of the Blues spectrum. Its exciting; exhilarating; pleasantly exhausting… and a whole lotta fun!

The band consist of Mike Thomas himself (vocals/harp/slide guitar); Mal Barclay (guitar/ vocals); Tim Penn (piano/accordion/vocals); Roy Webber (drums/vocals); and Paul Cuff (double bass/Fender bass). And these boys know what they’re doing, that’s for sure – musicianship is of very high quality indeed. The band have been around since 2000, and have achieved much acclaim ‘…from the Canary Islands to the Arctic Circle’, they say.

Its a 14-track collection of songs; ten of which were penned by Mike himself. Its their fifth album, and arguably their best. Its difficult to pick out highlights from an album of such remarkably consistent quality. Pushed for favourites I’d pick the opening track ‘For Richer, For Poorer’; and ‘Cadillac Shake’ with its Zydeco vibe. For me these are the best; but with this collection its a question of which songs you personally consider to be the most fun!

The lyrics with their modern slant are a major part of what the band are all about; often being amusing; sometimes cheeky; and always good. And I think its the pure enthusiasm of the whole project that is another main factor that stands out. To be honest, if this album doesn’t make your legs ache from dancing, and bring a smile to your face with the lyrics, then nothing ever will! The Cadillac Kings know how to rock; and they know how to swing…and I guess that’s the secret of their success!

The CD comes in a smart  tri-fold card case with the disc itself safely slipped into one side. The cover art is appropriately reminiscent of a ’50s thriller novel (as are most of their earlier sleeves). There are no lyrics, but there is a good amount of interesting info on each of the songs (other band’s please take note!); as well as credits and thanks etc. A fine job actually. It was originally going to released at the end of this month (August 2016), but due to the sheer volume of pre-orders, its release was brought forward; so its already available from: Proper Music.

Here is a video trailer for the album

For more info on the band; see review #100 on this website (by my guest writers Karen and Del); or go to the band’s website: The Cadillac KingsAnd if you like the sound of this album, you may also like my previous review #117: Richie Milton And The Lowdown’s Pre-Katrina.

PTMQ

117. RICHIE MILTON AND THE LOWDOWN “Pre-Katrina” (Right Track Records, 2016)

Pre-Katrina CD cover (Pic: Richie Milton)

Pre-Katrina CD cover (Pic: Richie Milton)

My regular readers will already be well aware of the name Richie Milton, in his capacity as one half of the popular Skiffle’n’Blues/Rockney duet Milton And Farrow. (See below for a list of my earlier reviews on this dynamic duo). But Richie of course, has another string to his bow; in the form of his own band The Lowdown.

At a Milton-Farrow gig recently, Richie handed me a copy of his own band’s new CD, Pre-Katrina (2016). This new collection has already received some critical acclaim; with airplay on none other than the prestigious Paul Jones Show on BBC Radio 2.

The Lowdown consist of Richie Milton himself (guitar and vocals); Linda Hall (vocals); Steve King (Piano and Sax); Ed Spevock (Drums); Eddie Masters (Bass); and Dick Hanson (Trumpet). As fine a group of musos you’ll ever listen to – each very impressive in their field.

This is a fifteen track collection of original songs; all penned by Richie bar one (Steve King’s ‘Ghosts On Rampart Street’). There was only one song among them that I previously knew – ‘Keep My Engine Clean’ (more on that later) – all others were new to me. Yet I felt as if I knew them all; for they remind me of family parties when I was a kid; because Richie seems to have accurately created a lot of grooves that are reminiscent of a late 50s / early 60s Juke Box – whilst still sounding original! (I’m guessing that Richie was a teenager around this time!) Song construction and lyric writing are superb. Many styles of period Pop / Rock’n’Roll are represented – there’s even a Ska instrumental (‘More Than You’ll Ever Know’).

I was particularly impressed with Richie’s vocals and generally with the fine Horn arrangements. I liked Linda’s vocals too – especially on ‘Things Ain’t Been The Same’ (an instrumental version appears at the end of the album too). My favourite track was the laid-back Jazz-Blues ‘How Come Baby?’ which is wonderful. And I’ve heard ‘Keep My Engine Clean’ with its bawdy euphemisms before; because it often appears in the Milton-Farrow live set – albeit this version in a kind of Zydeco-Ska form.  Other highlights for me were ‘I See Love’ with its walking bass line; ‘Ghosts…’ with its Latin vibe; and ‘Back To Rock’n’Roll’ which speaks for itself. Its all a lot of fun anyway!

The CD is available from Richie’s website (below); or from gigs. I recommend it – its a great album. PTMQ

Click here for a link to Richie’s website

Click for link to Paul Jones Show BBC Radio 2.

My earlier reviews of Milton And Farrow…

22. THE MILTON-FARROW SKIFFLE ‘n’ BLUES BAND Skiffleodeon EP (2014)

33. MILTON AND FARROW at ONAPLATE CAFE, Shenfiels, Essex. January 2015

63. MONDAY BLUES AT PEGGY SUE’S with MILTON AND FARROW. AUGUST 2015.

116. TANYA PICHE BLUES BAND New single “I Said Please” (2016)

(Pic: TPBB)

(Pic: TPBB)

This is one of the three new songs from The Tanya Piché Blues Band that I was privileged to be present at the recording of, in Basildon Recording Studio recently (see my article #111).

Its a slow, moody piece that accurately taps into an authentic Blues vibe. Tanya explains it herself… ‘I wrote it with melody in mind, instructing the boys to the chords, riff and Muddy Waters gospel feel / influence. I wanted the hook to be edgy and contradictory – pleading, to menacing, to declaration of love; as it’s essentially a love song which is genderless and could be also taken as a spiritual gospel-like experience/story.’ Well said, that lady!

I wasn’t there at its conception of course, but I know the work that went into the song because I was there at its birth in the studio. Well written; nicely arranged; sung from the heart; and expertly played by all (especially the lead solo from David Warne); its a great song that’ll go down a storm at gigs.

The single will be released on iTunes; Spotyfy; Amazon and Deezer; from 14th August 2016. It will feature on the band’s forthcoming album, due for release around November time; and that’s certainly something I’m looking forward to. PTMQ.

115. KATIE BRADLEY with THE CHRIS CORCORAN TRIO (+ support MARTIN McNEILL) at THE NEW CRAWDADDY BLUES CLUB, Billericay, Essex. Friday 29th July, 2016.

Katie sings the Blues! (Photo: K.Bradley)

Katie sings the Blues! (Photo: K.Bradley)

Back in January, at a gig at Peggy Sue’s Music Bar (see my review #87), Blues singer Katie Bradley told me that she and The Chris Corcoran Trio would be headlining at The New Crawdaddy Blues Club, Billericay, Essex later in the year. That was, of course, a date I was eager to keep. But I had to rush from work to get there; and even so I completely missed the support act Martin McNeill (who of course is the host at Monday Blues At Peggy Sue’s); and I arrived just as Katie, Chris and the boys were beginning their set.

Katie of course often gigs with Chris Corcoran and his band; and they work very well together. Mr.C himself is a guitarist of great and unique ability; and he is aided by the remarkable and respected JJ Zarbo on Double Bass; and the highly rated Rob Pokorny on Drums.

Katie’s vocals are smooth and soothing; with charming nuances inherent in her voice. A joy to hear and see perform. And apart from being a fine vocalist, Katie is also a bit tasty with the Blues Harp too; and this was certainly in evidence tonight.

The four of them got through a single fine set of mostly well-known Blues covers. I like fresh interpretations of classics; and they didn’t disappoint in this – reworking several Blues staples with a refreshing zest; melding the familiar with the new. Luminaries such as Georgia White; Billie Holiday; Big Mama Thornton; and Muddy Waters; were brought back to life in Katie’s inimitable style. We heard Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘My Baby Caught A Train’; BB King’s ‘Three O’Clock In The Morning’ and ‘Every Day I Have The Blues’.

Chris Corcoran (Photo: Karen R)

Chris Corcoran (Photo: Karen R)

We were also treated Katie’s own ‘Be Careful With My Baby’ which featured a great solo from Chris.  Its only a shame that we didn’t get more of Katie’s own material, which (in collaboration with Dudley Ross) has brought her much acclaim in recent years – particularly at the BBA last year.

My personal favourite was the classic Kansas Joe McCoy’s old Jazz-Blues number ‘Why Don’t You Do Right?’. I’ve always loved this song, and I’ve heard many covers of it over the years – this being one of the best. It featured fine solos from all three of the band, and some particularly good vocals from Katie of course. Excellent!

Several people I knew present in the audience on the night had been looking forward to the gig for some time, and showed their appreciation by demanding a double encore. It was well deserved. If you like your Blues on the traditional side – yet with a spark freshness too – then I’d say get along to a KB gig ASAP; and you won’t be disappointed. I had time for a little chat with Katie and Chris after the show. They are working on a new album; so that is something to look out for.

Big thanks to: impressario Paul Dean of the New Crawdaddy for hosting a fine night of Blues yet again;  to Paul’s fine team of volunteers for making it run so smoothly; and to Karen of the club for supplying great photos once more. See my review (#66) of a Red Butler gig at The New Crawdaddy last year for basic info on the club; or see their website. PTMQ

Katie’s website

Chris’ website

114. SPACE ELEVATOR. Debut album “Space Elevator” (2014)

(Pic: Space Elevator)

(Pic: Space Elevator)

This debut effort from Space Elevator is definitely one of the best Rock albums – and probably one of the most unique – that I’ve heard in the last couple of years.  I didn’t review it at the time because (to my shame!) i was slow getting hold of a copy; but although its been out in the UK a couple of years now, it has recently been released in Europe; and subsequently re-released in the UK; so its well worth talking about now.

The band’s personnel that recorded this eponymous collection two years ago, consisted of: The enigmatically named vocalist The Duchess; guitarist David Young; the veteran bassist Neil Murray; Elliot Ware on Keys; and Brian Greene on Drums. These are all very experienced musos for whom I have a great deal of respect – especially Mr.Murray, of whom I’ve been a fan of since I used to see him on stage with the early (proper) Whitesnake in the late ’70s. But since the album was cut, the much in demand bassman has moved on and been replaced by Chas Maguire in the touring band, and for the follow up album which will be out soon.

The Duchess (Pic: Space Elevator)

The Duchess (Pic: Space Elevator)

It is an eleven track opus of original numbers, all penned by The Duchess and Mr.Young themselves. It is one of those albums that you put on for the first time and decide immediately that you love it – but then find yourself waking up at night with the songs spinning around in your head… then you know you’re hooked! (Damn you Space Elevator – let me kip!) It constantly reminds me of diverse earlier artists (Queen; Heart; Genesis; and Journey spring to mind to name but a few), yet there is an obvious originality and uniqueness present throughout the collection that is impressive and undeniable.

There is quite a wide latitude of Rock styles represented throughout the album, which suits and impresses my personal tastes. Often its Proggy; at times Heavy; sometimes AOR/Pop radio friendly; perhaps a little Bluesy – but always exciting and high quality. And at all times it is characterised by wonderful vocal and lead guitar harmony arrangements that could make Messrs. Mercury and May sit up and take note, respectively. There are Power Ballads too that could give the mighty Heart and Journey themselves a run for their money. And you may have noticed my comparisons to ’70s bands that flourished in the ’80s; but that is in no way a criticism, because although influenced by these earlier luminaries, this is very much a fresh and original work indeed.

Mr.Young (Pic: Space Elevator)

Mr.Young (Pic: Space Elevator)

Vocals from Her Grace The Duchess I think need to be particularly singled out for a little discussion. This is a lady who is very impressive in both voice and vocal style. She reminds me at times of diverse divas such as Sharleen Spiteri (particularly on ‘Really Don’t Care’); sometimes of Madonna; and occasionally a little of Deborah Bonham. Yet she is inimitable in her own right. She has a great vocal range: from the lows in ‘Ordinary Day’ to the highs in ‘Gallifrey Dreams’; and she is controlled and impressive throughout. There is aggression in her voice where needs be (such as in the rocker ‘Little White Lies’); but tenderness where necessary (such as in ‘Move On’).

Its hard to pick out highlights in an album that overall is so good, but I particularly liked the Dr.Who inspired ‘Gallifrey Dreams’ with its haunting arpeggiated intro and Hackett-esque solo; ‘Ordinary Day’ with its radio friendly clever and catchy chorus;  the tragic power ballad ‘Loneliness Of Love’ with its poetic pithy one-liners in the lyric (like ‘slit my throat with a smile’; and ‘In every lie I hear goodbye’); and the quirky ‘Oils And Bubbles’ for its daft lyric and Wakeman-like piano. But I could spout superlatives about all of these songs, that’s for sure.

The album was recorded at Mike Moran Music in Bucks, with Adam Vanryne. It was originally released in CD and vinyl formats only; but is now available to download. I have the CD version, which comes in a standard Jewel Case with an excellent booklet containing all lyrics, credits, photos, etc; and great cover art that is reminiscent of the classic age of Prog-Rock vinyl! I love it!

The band’s sophomore follow up album should be out soon; and they are financing it on Pledge. I’ve signed up, and it will be interesting to see where their musical direction heads from now on. The debut is a tough act follow that’s for sure.  As a reviewer I don’t give marks out of ten; but if I did it would be a Spinal Tap-esque ‘One louder’! So all that’s left for me to say (as the narration on the opening track ‘Elevator’ advises) is to ‘…just lie back and enjoy the ride’! PTMQ

Link to Space Elevator’s website