148. DANIEL NESTLERODE & PAUL BALLANTYNE (+ Open Floor) at RFC. Tuesday, 7th February, 2017

(Photo: Garry Walker)

Ballantyne and Nestlerode (Photo: Garry Walker)

At a gig recently, Paul Ballantyne told me he was booked, along with Daniel Nestlerode, to play at RFC (See my review # 146). Having seen Paul play on occasions (See review #59); and having been told by several people that Daniel was ‘well worth seeing’, I promised to go along.

As is usual at RFC, the guest’s set was split into two parts – both preceded by Open Floor spots. These were varied as usual. I thought Mikanora were again pick of the bunch with their funny and topical ‘Old People’ which is a song about the NHS – or rather the government’s attitude towards it!

Daniel and Paul’s set was basically a live performance of the tracks from Daniel’s album More Than A Little Guitar (a copy of which he gave me afterwards). Some of these Country/Folk songs are Traditional, and some penned by Daniel himself. Although Paul is not on the album, he works very well with Daniel and together they produced a fine live show, with Paul on guitars, and Daniel on mandos/vocals. Songs such as ‘Old Calapina’ and ‘Long Black Veil’ I thought were particularly good. Surprisingly they finished up with a cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’, to which we all sang along. An enjoyable set.

Daniel is currently recording a new album and I look forward to hearing it. Thanks to the guests, the RFC, and all who took part. PTMQ

147. PAMELA WARD & PAUL CHERRINGTON (+ Open Floor) at RFC. 31st January 2017

Pam and Paul at RFC (Photo: Garry Walker)

Pam and Paul at RFC (Photo: Garry Walker)

To be honest I didn’t realise that there was a special guest booked for this particular evening at RFC; I was just expecting an Open Floor Night. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that Northamptonshire based duet Pamela Ward and Paul Cherrington had been asked to play at the club.

Their set was of course preceded by the usual Open Floor spots. Many of the regulars were in attendance and played a couple of good songs each; displaying the great variety of styles and abilities characteristic of these evenings. Pick of the bunch I thought was Mikanora‘s topical and amusing song about US President Trump… ‘Down Mexico Way’.  I did a duet with Jo Gregory playing ‘Killing Me Softly’; and a couple of my own songs too: ’40 Years, 40 Days, 40 Nights’ and ‘Don’t Blame Me If Me Washboard’s Out O’ Tune!’.

Jo and The Quill (Photo: Garry W)

Jo and The Quill (Photo: Garry W)

I had never seen Pamela and Paul perform before, and I was very impressed by their set. Of particular note were Pam’s lovely vocals; and Paul’s hauntingly beautiful alternative guitar tunings (reminding me of Giltrap at times). Their obvious skill at song-writing was evident; and the performance of them was excellent. They began with a couple of covers and then moved on to some of their own well-crafted songs; such as the tragic but beautiful ‘Sail On By’ (about a maritime accident in 1942 which Pam’s father survived); and two fine songs about the Sheffield cutlery trade: ‘Little Mesters’ and ‘Errand Lasses And Buffer Girls’. Preceding each song, Pam gave a good explanation of it; which is something I like to hear before any performance. So thanks to this fine duet for their short but superb set; to the club; for hosting it; and to all who took part.

I had a chat with Pam and Paul after the gig, and obtained three of their CDs: Pam’s Just An Old Fashioned Girl; Paul’s instrumental album Martin & Me; and their joint work Sail On By. Having had a quick spin of these albums I can report that they are all very good indeed. PTMQ

Here is a link to the Pamela and Paul’s website

146. DARIA KULESH (+ Open Floor) at The FaB Club, The White Hart PH, Grays, Essex. Sunday 22nd January, 2017. (+ a few words about the venue).

(Photo: PTMQ)

(Photo: PTMQ)

Preamble.  When my friend, singer/song-writer Daria Kulesh told me she had some solo gigs booked here in Essex, I of course said that I’d try to get along to one or two. Her second album Long Lost Home will be officially released soon, so she is busy gigging her way around the Home Counties and further afield too. I have heard the new collection, and I have reviewed it recently (See my article #145).

The FaB Club is held in the White Hart PH, Grays, Essex – half an hour’s drive through the lanes from Quill HQ – although I must admit I’ve never visited the venue before. The acronym FaB stands for ‘Folk, Acoustic and Blues’ and it is held on most Sunday afternoons (Check their website for details). They host regular Open Floor sessions and occasionally book a special guest such as Daria. I arrived early and was welcomed by MoS Liz Montgomery; and soundman / guitarist Paul Ballantyne – who was busy setting up a fine new Bose sound system. I have met and seen him perform before, at Romford Folk Club (See my article #59). Garry Walker of RFC is also a regular at the FaB and he turned up as well. Daria and husband Julian arrived soon after myself. I haven’t seen them for a year (since she played Haverfolk with her band KARA. See my review #78), so it was lovely to see them both.

(Photo: PTMQ)

(Photo: PTMQ)

The gig (Part One).  The afternoon was split into two parts – each began with some Open Floor spots, followed by a half-set from Daria. To get the ball rolling, Paul Ballantyne played a couple of songs, followed by  a guitar-bass-banjo trio, Keith, Maureen and John, who played a couple of fine songs. I was up next, and borrowing Keith’s lovely Washburn acoustic, played a couple of my own songs: ‘Mid-Life Crisis Blues’ and ‘Nan’s Bread Pudd’n’. Thanks Keith!

Daria began her first set with a Cossack drinking song, to which we all joined in after she had taught us some Russian words! Good fun. Taking up her Shruti Box, she then played the haunting ‘Tamara’ from her new album Long Lost Home (See my previous review #145); followed by the Trad Irish song ‘Tell Me Ma’ on her bodhrán. Three more fine renditions of songs from the new album were then played on her guitar: ‘Safely Wed’; ‘The Moon And The Pilot’; and on the shruti, ‘Heart’s Delight’ – all with heart-felt preambles. And so ended the first, very eclectic, set to great applause.

The gig (Part Two).  After a short break, a few more floor spots restarted the afternoon’s entertainment. As is usual in Folk/Acoustic clubs, a great variety of styles were represented; and very enjoyable they were too. Daria returned then for her second set; and began with a Trad Scottish song; then, bodhrán in hand, she followed this with ‘Begone!’, a favourite song from her live repertoire. It is a true story about a witch hunt – but sung from the point of view of the mob. It is menacing and primal in its intensity.

(Photo: PTMQ)

Keith, Maureen and John (Photo: PTMQ)

Apart from her solo work and being a member of Kara, Daria is also involved with The Company Of Players, a ten-piece group of young Folk musicians. ‘Lady MacBeth’ is a track on their album, and will also appear on the new Kara album too. It is played on the shruti. I hadn’t heard it before; and found it to be very haunting. She followed with the beautiful ‘Gone’ from the new album. Then she sang ‘Hairdresser’ from Eternal Child, and dedicated it to me – perhaps I need a haircut? Thanks Daria. Snip, snip!

The main set finished with a tri-lingual (English/Russian/French) cover of ‘Those Were The Days My Friend’ with which we all joined in of course. Encore was demanded, and duly given in the form of ‘Distant Love’ from Long Lost Home.

Fin.  I very much enjoyed Daria’s performance – she improves every time I see her. She’ll be performing at Cecil Sharp House, Camden, on 23rd Feb for her official album launch – check her website for more info. Thanks to her, the FaB Club and all the regulars who performed to make it a very entertaining afternoon. PTMQ

145. DARIA KULESH “Long Lost Home” (2017). A pre-release review.

(Pic: Daria Kulesh)

(Pic: Daria Kulesh)

Its always nice receive new music from my friend Russian singer/song-writer Daria Kulesh – whether it be as part of the Folk Band Kara, of which she is a member, or in this case more of her remarkable solo work. I’d heard some of the new songs, as they have been part of her solo set for a while now (see my review #45), but I was keen to hear them all in their perfected studio-recorded form.

And so I gladly received Long Lost Home recently for review. I had been wondering how Daria could possibly follow up her marvellous debut album Eternal Child (see my review #35) with her second album; but whereas the debut was about her personal life-experiences, this new work is about the plight of her ancestors. It is essentially a twelve track self-penned concept album (I’ve always been partial to concept albums) – the theme in this case being songs inspired by stories from Daria’s ancestry in Ingushetia (a mountainous region in the south of Russia).

Every one of these beautiful songs has been lovingly teased from Daria’s very soul – and even from the very spirit of her forebears. Every one has a heart-felt story to tell; or a wrong to right. And they are delivered with a passion that only Daria can summon up. They are stories of family and local heroes – and enemies (Stalin comes in for some well-deserved derision). And I have learned a lot from them – musically and historically.

From the haunting opening song ‘Tamara’, we are transported to an exotic place – both geographically, musically and lyrically. The effect of this is quite intoxicating and intriguing, I found. All the songs in this collection are exceptional. I very much liked ‘Safely Wed’ and ‘The Hazel Tree’; but the song I particularly warmed to was ‘The Panther’. This is the true story of local heroine Tangieva, who defied Stalin for the sake of her people. Daria impressively tells of ‘The Panther’ in this song; haughtily singing ‘An Amazon doesn’t serve in an army of slaves’!

The CD comes in a card tri-fold sleeve, with disc fitted one side and lyric booklet on the other – all very well designed and presented, with striking photos of Daria’s ancestral homeland. The booklet has lyrics and of course (typically thoughtful of Daria), plenty of very useful background information on each of the tracks so that the listener can reap as much as possible from the songs.

The album will be officially launched on 23rd February 2017 at Cecil Sharp House, Camden, London, where Daria will be accompanied by several other fine musicians such as Jonny Dyer, and members of Kara too – who have contributed so well to the album. It will of course be available to buy at the gig, or from Daria’s website. PTMQ

144. DENNIS HOMES “Sunset To Song Rise” (2017)

(Pic: Dennis Homes)

(Pic: Dennis Homes)

I ran into singer/guitarist/song-writer Dennis Homes at a gig last year (See my review #101); and he told me that he was working on a new album, which I said I’d be interested to hear; so recently he sent me a CD copy for review.

Dennis was of course once a member of late ’60’s psychedelic folkie band Synanthesia, whose eponymous album is apparently much sought after by vinyl collectors these days. Since then he has been writing and performing his own material.

Over the last few months I’d bumped into Dennis a few times at Folk/acoustic clubs, and seen him play a couple of songs from his new collection; namely ‘A Battered Old Guitar’ and ‘Bunjies, Cousins And Troubadour’. I liked them, so I was glad to get hold of the recorded versions.

Its a ten track collection of songs all penned by Dennis himself. There’s quite a variety of genres/styles embraced in the album, with influences from Folk to Rock’n’Roll; from Country to stage shows/musicals. One thing that is consistent throughout though, are the thoughtful song arrangements and the high quality of the clearly sung lyrics. It is obvious that Dennis has put a lot of time and effort into this collection.

I particularly liked the finished versions of the two songs that I’d already heard: ‘A Battered Old Guitar’ with its Duane Eddy-esque riffs; and Bunjies…’ which is of course about the three very influential London Folk clubs of the ’60s. I also liked the opener ‘Keep That Music Playing’ and the finale ‘The Night They Danced Under The Stars’ –  a wartime love story.

The CD comes in a smart card gate-fold case – the type with the disc pressed into the right-hand side. It has basic credits, photos and track list etc; but no lyrics or further info. I like the album because it is inventive and interesting, with great lyrics and fine arrangements. It is available from Dennis’ website, or Amazon. PTMQ

143. LAURENCE JONES BAND (+THE HEATERS) at THE NEW CRAWDADDY BLUES CLUB, Billericay, Essex. Friday, 20th January, 2017.

LJ at the NCBC (Photo: Karen R)

LJ at the NCBC (Photo: Karen R)

My first visit to the New Crawdaddy Blues Club of 2017 was a good one to be sure: it was the superb Laurence Jones Band, with support from house band, The Heaters. I’ve seen LJ a few times before – as an impressive 21 year-old jamming with his mentor Walter Trout (May 2013. Just before I started my website); then supporting Coco Montoya (May 2014. See my review #14); and supporting – and jamming with – Otis Grand (November 2014. See my review #30), He had noticeably improved in ability and confidence each time. So having not seen him for over two years, my son James and I were wondering if we’d notice any changes this time. We were to see….

But first on stage was the club’s house band, The Heaters. I’ve seen them many times before, but they never fail to impress with songs from their vast repertoire of covers – some of which I hadn’t heard them play before. On this occasion they played such favourites as ‘Hideaway’; ‘I’m Tore Down’; ‘Pretty Woman’ and ‘All Your Love’. But the highlight of their set was a fine rendition of Greeny’s ‘Fool No More’ featuring lead guitarist Chris Campbell. Excellent.

And so to the headline act. As the LJB climbed on stage, the first noticeable change was that band were completely different yet again. They now consist of Laurence himself of course on guitar and vocals; Phil Wilson on drums; and making his first appearance with the band, bassist Greg Smith. The LJB also now have a keyboard player in the shape of Bennett Holland. No longer being a three-piece opens up a lot more scope musically. This was the band’s first gig of 2017; and it was certainly a good start to the year.

(Photo: Karen R)

(Photo: Karen R)

The band immediately launched into the title track of the new album Take Me High. It was clear from the off that this new line-up were tight and confident together. A variety of Blues/Blues-based numbers followed, all on the Rock edge of the Blues spectrum, and all in LJ’s inimitable style. These were mainly songs from the last two albums, plus a couple from Temptation including ‘Soul Swamp River’; and a fine electric cover of the old Lead Belly tune ‘Good Morning Blues’ – nice use of wah-wah on this one. A good cover of ‘Cocaine’ was played too, with of course plenty of audience participation.

Highlights of the show for me were: the radio friendly single from the new album, ‘I Will’ (which I thought had a bit of a ‘Watchtower’ vibe about it). Also the Rock’n’Roller ‘Stop Moving The House’; and the obligatory slow number ‘Thunder In The Sky’ (apparently the first song that LJ ever wrote) – to which a couple of lovely ladies in black performed a cheeky dance – and why not? (I should have filmed it!) There was also a tasty bit of duelling between LJ and keys man Bennett on ‘You Wind Me Up’ too. Encore was demanded and delivered in the form of ‘Every Day I Have The Blues’ and ‘My Eyes Get In Me Trouble’.

(Photo: Karen R)

(Photo: Karen R)

Laurence and the boys are a fine young band, and I think they have a great deal more to offer over the coming years. The Blues genre needs young bands like this; and I noticed there were some younger people in the audience too – that can only be a good thing. If you like guitar-based Blues on the Rock edge, then you’ll enjoy their live performance if you haven’t seen them already.

Thanks to impresario Paul Dean and all the hard working volunteers at the NCBC who week in, week out, make this regular Friday night Blues club something special. Big thanks to Karen for the great photos too. PTMQ

 Laurence Jones’ website

New Crawdaddy’s website

142. HUSKY TONES “Who Will I Turn To Now?” (2017). A pre-release review.

(Pic: HuskyTones)

(Pic: HuskyTones)

My readers may remember that a year ago I published a review of Husky Tones remarkable debut album Time For A Change (see review #89). Their second offering Who Will I Turn To Now? is about to be released, so the band kindly sent me a CD copy of the album for review.

The Bristol-based band are essentially a duet – Victoria Bourne (drums/vocals); and Chris Harper (guitar/vocals). They describe themselves as ‘Punk Blues’. This is an accurate description because whereas most Blues musicians would be content to move freely within the huge range offered by the genre, Husky Tones are keen on breaking into new ground completely. There are loose rules to Blues of course, but this band have just torn up the rule-book! Blues purists may hate it – but then Blues purists hate a lot of stuff! Its actually a very interesting collection of songs – musically, vocally and lyrically.

I listened to the first couple of songs and I was pleasantly surprised because they didn’t go where I thought they would; but after that I decided to listen outside the box and not to try to predict anything – just letting the sounds take me where the band wanted me to go. I then found the whole thing very compelling. It has a primal earthiness about it, redolent of both early Blues and Punk Rock – unusual bed-mates that strangely have united thanks to Victoria and Chris.

It is a ten track collection of songs all written by the couple themselves. There are some uncompromisingly good heavy guitar riffs present in many of the tracks, courtesy of Chris; and some haunting and unique vocals from Victoria. I particularly liked ‘The Island Of Barbed Wire’ which is about Victoria’s Great uncle being interned on the Isle Of Man during WW1; and ‘Jungle Blues’ – both with excellent acoustic guitar. I also liked the good rocker ‘I Worry About Nothing’; and the pensive ‘Put Your Arms Around Someone You Love’ with its beautiful guitar.

Lyrics are very good throughout, dealing with various topical historical, social, and political themes. This is refreshing subject matter for a Blues band to handle. So all kudos to the band for tackling these issues. More Blues bands should do this.

The CD comes in a smart card gate-fold sleeve, like a mini vinyl album with disc in one side and lyric booklet in the other. It includes credits, photos, and thanks etc; and was designed by Victoria herself. This collection is well worth getting hold of because I think its unique…. and it grows on you! The album will be released on 24th February. PTMQ

Husky Tones website