155. JAKE QUINCEY AND THE BIG RAD WOLF “Nothing To Loose… But The Blues” EP (2017)

(Image: Jake Quincey)

Recently my friend, guitarist Vern Waldie suggested that I listen to Jake Quincey And The Big Rad Wolf. They are a Blues-Rock outfit based in Canterbury, Kent (a hot-bed of earlier innovative bands); and they have just released their debut 5-track EP Nothing To Loose… But The Blues. Jake contacted me and sent me a link to the sounds on the band’s website, for review…

My first impression of this EP was that it is obviously influenced by the great luminaries who pioneered the transition of Blues into Psychedelic/Prog-Rock almost half a century ago. And this would be fair enough in its own right, of course. Yet having had a few listens, I think this first impression was a disservice to the band, because they seem to be pioneering themselves, in a kind of independent latter day parallel Blues-Rock evolution; demonstrating that there is yet more that can be achieved, given some imagination.

The music still has a Bluesy core of course, yet the parent genre has been transformed into a Psychedelic/Prog-Rock adventure; breaking new ground – and doing so in a way that left me wondering where each track would lead, because I couldn’t guess. Each track gets into your head and stays there; and that is why I like this EP; its familiar, yet different.

Quincey makes himself very useful, with some tasty guitar work – reminiscent of Hendrix and others; yet demonstrating a personally unique style. His vocals too are remarkably singular, yet reminding me a lot of Morrison. John Golding on drums is also working outside the box, in the same way that Baker and Mitchell did all those years ago.

Having only worked from a download, I haven’t seen the CD sleeve/case so I can’t make any comment on that other than to say that the cover image is a good one – simple but effective. If you are fan the late 60s Blues-Rock pioneers then I think you’ll  like this EP too.  It is available from the band’s website. PTMQ


154. VICKI SWAN & JONNY DYER (+ Open Floor) at RFC. Tuesday, 14th March 2017

Dyer & Swan at RFC (Photo: Garry W)

Due to innumerable recommendations, I’d been meaning to get along to a Vicki Swan / Jonny Dyer gig for far too long without achieving this ambition. So when Garry Walker of RFC told me he’d booked the duo here at my local club, I didn’t even have to go far to see them… they came to me! The couple are based in Braintree, Essex (not a million miles from here), and have made quite a name for themselves in recent years – partly for their own noted performances as a duet, but also as much-in-demand multi-instrumentalists collaborating with others too.

Arriving at RFC on the evening and introducing myself, I was immediately struck by the sheer quantity and range of instruments that they’d brought along to the gig. In evidence were a left-handed 6-String acoustic guitar; what looked to me like a L/H 8-String Tenor guitar (which turned out to be a guitar body with a Bouzouki neck – how wrong can I have been?); Scottish Small Pipes; Swedish Pipes (I didn’t know there was such a thing!); several accordions; a flute; cow horn; swanee whistle; and of course Vicki’s trademark instrument, the remarkable Swedish Nyckelharpa (pronounced nook-uhl-hahr-puh) – an explanatory leaflet on which she kindly gave me, enlightening my ignorance by a few shades!

(Photo: Garry W)

Vicki and Jonny played an amazing and impressive two-part set of some very varied traditional arrangements as well as some of their own material. Introduced by MoS Alan Gore, they began with ‘Processional’ from their excellent last album Paper Of Pins (2016), a CD copy of which Vicki kindly gave me after the show. Some of their two-part set consisted of songs from this excellent album; and included: ‘Friends’; and ‘The Bold Fisherman’; as well as the title track.

Other tunes performed were ‘The Standing Stones of Stanton Drew’; the fun ‘Three-Cornered Hat’ (with actions); their amusing bus driver song; and ‘I’ve Lost My Cow’ (which featured some bizarre duelling between Jonny’s Cow Horn and Vicki’s Swedish Pipes); and others. The evening finished with an encore of a Swedish Polska, (not to be confused with a Polka). This was a fun tune in 3/4 time. And so the performance ended with much appreciative – and well deserved – applause.

At all times these tunes were performed with skill, professionalism – and a good measure of humour too. Vocals from both were excellent (although Vicki said she was struggling with her voice); and harmonies were likewise of superb quality. We, the audience, were encouraged to participate too. Its well worth going to see this duo if you can. I very much enjoyed their set.

Each of the Swan-Dyer half-sets were of course preceded by Open Floor spots; and all the regulars had a go. Best of all this week I thought was newcomer Cliff, who plugged in a Telecaster and played lead guitar over a 12-Bar Blues instrumental backing track called ‘Cascade’. Unusual to hear such a thing in such a club, but I love a bit of Blues, and Cliff played it very well – he even claimed that he’d not played to an audience before! Continuing with something in the same general genre – and celebrating my early retirement from work – when it was my turn I played my own acoustic number ‘Mid-Life Crisis Blues’.

Thanks to Vicki and Jonny; to the club staff; and all who took part. Another very good evening at RFC. PTMQ

The Swan-Dyer website

153. BLUES ENGINE “Tracks” (2017). A pre-release review.

(Image: Blues Engine)

I was contacted by Alex Cooray, guitarist with Blues Engine recently, asking if I’d like a copy of the band’s new album (their second) Tracks for review. Never one to refuse some new Blues, I of course accepted his kind offer.

Blues Engine are a London-based four-piece consisting of Alex Cooray (guitar); Katya Chernyakova (vocals); Alexander Liutai (bass); and Hamish Birchall (drums)… and impressive they are too. Some other good musos were recruited as necessary for the recording as well.

They say Blues is formulaic – and it can be – but just recently I have heard some very innovative new albums from the genre, showing what can be achieved with some innovation. (See my reviews #141 and #142). Tracks is such an album too – not afraid to push boundaries yet keeping a firm footing within expected norms. That’s something I like and admire.

It is an eleven track album with all but one song written by the band themselves. There are a variety of Blues/Blues-based styles represented; making it an interesting collection indeed. Every track is a good’n for me, I must say. Whilst songs like ‘I Ain’t Sorry’ and ‘Tell Me A Riddle’ (with its excellent Greeny-esque guitar) are pretty much within tried and tested structures; ‘Spellbound’ and ‘Boatman’s Blues’ are compelling because I couldn’t predict where they were going. I also particularly liked the Latin inspired ‘Lonely By Your Side’ and the wonderfully upbeat ‘House On The Hill’. The album finishes with a great cover of Jimmy Cox’s ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out’.

The CD comes in a jewel case with a nicely designed cover; with credits and thanks etc, but no lyrics or other info. (See the band’s website for more info). A bloody good album – its Blues with a difference. PTMQ

152. OKA VANGA “Dance Of The Copper Trail” (2017). A pre-release review.

(Image: Oka Vanga)

I was contacted by Hertfordshire based duo Will Cox and Angie Meyer of Oka Vanga just after Christmas, and they asked if I’d like to hear their new album Dance Of The Copper Trail. I’d heard good things about them, and I was keen to have a listen, so they kindly sent me a pre-release CD for review.

The album is a widely varied collection of eleven fine songs, mainly written by Angela. The title is ‘… a metaphor for survival, a musical allegory weaving together songs based on faith, superstition, love, loss, death and everlasting hope’.

From the opening number, there are several things that stand out and carry right through the entire collection: namely, Angela’s very distinctive vocals; some wonderful guitar work; and intelligently constructed songs that are innovatively arranged – with some fine work from guest musicians also contributing.

The whole album is superb; but I particularly liked the opener ‘The Wicken Tree’; the Angie-Will co-written instrumental ‘Don’t Let The Clouds Roll In’;  the Anne Bonnie inspired ‘The Devil’s Tide’; the haunting ‘Rose Of The Hill’; and the two covers in the collection, a very beautiful rendition of the ancient Irish folk song ‘She Moved Through The Fair’; and Sister Rosetta Tharp’s Bluesy ‘This Train’.

The album comes in a nicely designed card gate-fold cover; which incudes a booklet with plenty of info on each song – something I always appreciate. It is officially released on 31st March 2017. Highly recommended. PTMQ

Oka Vanga’s website

151. JO GREGORY (+ Open Floor) at RFC. Tuesday, 28th February 2017

Jo Gregory at RFC (Photo: Garry Walker)

Jo Gregory at RFC (Photo: Garry Walker)

It is always very satisfying for me to see one of my friends getting their own gig (as promoting my friends’ talents is originally what my website was designed to do). Jo Gregory is a fine singer who has been singing in pubs on and off for years. (She is also a published poet, and plays guitar a bit too). She has been a regular at Romford Folk Club for some time, and they gave her this Feature Night to show-case her talents. But Jo being Jo, she brought along several members of her very talented family to help out too – upon which, more anon…

The usual Open Floor spots preceded each of Jo’s half-sets of course. best among these this week I thought were the duet Mikanora covering ‘Spanish Castles’; and father and daughter team Steve and Hannah O’Driscoll doing ‘The Jolly Tinker’. I played my ‘Nan’s bread Pudd’n’… ably assisted by Rod Standen who played washboard for the first time ever! Cheers Rod! (For a review of Rod’s gig at RFC recently, see my review #139; and a review of Rod’s album Poetic Force #109).

L-R: Micky, Jackie, Me, Jo. (Photo: Garry Walker)

L-R: Micky, Jackie, Me, Jo. (Photo: Garry Walker)

Jo, who has a wide variety of musical influences, delivered a great range of songs during the course of her set; beginning the first half with her fine rendition of ‘The Skye Boat Song’ (the RL Stevenson lyric version); followed by the Trad Irish song ‘She Moved Through The Fair’. Both were sung by Jo, as usual, unaccompanied – and in her usual unique style. A complete change then ensued in the form of Patsy Cline’s ‘You Belong To Me’; and Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case Of You’. Then at this point Jo asked me to accompany her on guitar for ‘Killing Me Softly’; and her elder daughter Ellie for ‘The Rose’ – during which mother and daughter harmonised beautifully. And so ended the first half to great applause.

Half time included a discussion on a bombshell development that evening, that the host venue The Sun, had given RFC a month’s notice to quit their function room! So ideas were bandied about as to where the club could move to. This will be an ongoing topic for the club members, so watch this space. Not all bad news though… I won a Seasick Steve CD in the raffle! Anyway, after a couple more floor spots, Jo was back for part two.

Jo and Ellie (Photo: Garry W)

Jo and Ellie (Photo: Garry W)

She began her second set by reciting her published poem ‘At What Cost?’ – a short but poignant verse about three of her Great Uncles who died in the Great War. She followed this with ‘Let It Be’; before inviting her younger daughter Molly up for ‘A Thousand Years’. Again, Mum and daughter harmonised beautifully, and was received very well by the audience. ‘Nothing Compares 2u’ followed. It is one of the first songs that Jo ever sung in public, and has become a firm favourite. Jackie Gregory, another member of her truly talented family then joined her, along with Micky Brown on guitar and yours truly on percussion, for ‘Blanket On The Ground’. Then finally she finished with ‘Blooming Heather’, asking Gemma Boyd to accompany her on fiddle. This, like most of her songs, inspired everyone to join in. Encore was required of course; and Jo chose to sing ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ with her elder daughter Ellie again. And thus ended another fine evening’s entertainment at RFC. Thanks to Jo and her clan for their performances; and to the club for hosting it. PTMQ

150. SHARON LAZIBYRD’s new single “Opium Of The Masses” (2017). A pre-release review.

(Image: Sharon Martin)

(Image: Sharon Martin)

Sharon Lazibyrd‘s forthcoming single – to be released on 24th March – is ‘Opium Of The Masses‘. It is the follow up to ‘What Time Is Later’ (See my review #137); and she kindly sent me a pre-release download for review.

I like it. It is one of those compelling songs that stays with you after just one play – pleasantly infectious and lyrically thought-provoking. It is deceptively chirpy and radio friendly; yet written on the deeper theme of ‘wants, needs and delusions’.

Sharon’s distinctive vocals and fine ukulele playing are beautifully enhanced on the recording by the addition of some other fine musicians: Kate and Damon Bridge (from Owl In The Sun), who both featured on the earlier single; and by Tom Corey (of Bare Knuckle Parade).

Listen to the single on Soundcloud

Sharon is currently recording her new solo album Half Shame And Half Glory, so that will be interesting to hear. PTMQ

149. RICKY LEE at ‘THE KING HAROLD’, Harold Wood, Essex. Saturday, 18th February, 2017.

Ricky with Les at the Harold (Photo: PTMQ)

Ricky with Les at the Harold (Photo: PTMQ)

To be honest I wasn’t even planning to go to a gig on this particular night, but at short notice, my boy James recommended solo covers guitarist Ricky Lee, a local 25 year old, who was booked for my local pub The King Harold; so off we went. I don’t get myself down there much these days because I don’t normally have the time to review covers bands (excellent though some of them are), but its a good pub which I think hosts covers artists/bands every Saturday night; and was packed out as usual. I was glad I went on this particular night, and here’s why…

Strapping on his Les Paul and switching on his backing track, our man began his set with ‘How Long?’, following up with a great variety of well-chosen crowd-pleasing covers from the last six decades, such as ‘Lovely Day’; ‘Wonderful Tonight’; ‘Teenage Dirtbag’; ‘Johnny B Goode’; ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’; ‘You Really Got Me’; ‘Rebel Yell’; ‘Here I Go Again’; Rocking In The Free World’; and ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’ (unfortunately without a Slash-esque solo – but good all the same!)

Most popular with the ladies on the dance floor were ‘Valerie’; ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’; and ‘Summer Of 69’; but I was personally most impressed by his axe-work ‘Still Got The Blues’ and ‘Foxy Lady’ – leading me to think that the Blues-Rock genre is where he feels most at home. He looks and sounds too good to be doing just covers and I’d be interested to hear his own material. We had a chat at half-time, and he told me he was (not surprisingly) into Moore, Slash and Bonamassa, among others.

It was clear from the first number that Ricky knew his way round the fret-board of his Les Paul, which he handled with confidence and competence; changing from rhythm to lead with consumate ease – his right foot was more than a bit useful on the Cry Baby for the iconic solo of ‘Don’t Believe A Word’ too! Every song was easily recognisable – but not a slavish copy, leaving room for a little personal interpretation. There were no discernable mistakes and vocals were very good. A great performance and a fine set. Someone to look out for; and good luck to him. Thanks to all staff and punters at the King Harold… and to James for suggesting the gig in the first place! PTMQ

Ricky’s Facebook page