Tag Archives: greg hancock

76. DEVONBIRD Album launch gig (+ HARPING MAD; & GREG HANCOCK) in the Clifford Room, BARNFIELD THEATRE, Exeter, Devon. Friday 9th October, 2015. An on-line review.

Devonbird in full flight (Photo: Brent Ellicot)

Devonbird in full flight (Photo: Brent Ellicot)

Preamble: I was unfortunately not able to attend this gig due to various reasons, although I had been specifically invited by my friends in Devonbird. That was a great shame, as it was a very important one in the career of the band that I’d have liked to have attended – i.e: the official launch of their second album Turning Of The Year (See my review #71). However, although I was peeved at my own inability to be there, the band’s guitarist Rob had told me that the gig was to be streamed live on line via Livestream.com, and I would therefore be able to see it nonetheless. This is the first review I’ve written from a live stream; although I have seen them before.

Technical Talk:  I wasn’t too happy though, about the quality / inaudibility of sound; which somewhat spoilt my enjoyment of the first two sets; although I don’t know if it was the website or my laptop at fault. Master Of Ceremonies Tony Colkin, spoke without mic too; which for me sitting in Essex, meant utter silence when he spoke! I’m glad to say that this was improved to an acceptable level for the main Devonbird set though, as Tony had been advised to use the mic, and the sound generally improved in volume and quality too. Sight and sound were also slightly out of synch throughout the whole evening, but nothing I couldn’t live with! Generally the filming was good though, I must say – various angles were covered at appropriate times; and it was always in focus. Lighting was good; and I experienced no buffering.

The Greg Hancock Set:  Greg played a short solo set of three songs from his excellent new EP Comfortable Hatred. (For a review of this EP, see my entry #60). He gave us his ‘Three Conversations’; ‘Buckles And Buttons’; and ‘Old Lady’. Although the sound that I was receiving was unacceptable, I am familiar with these songs, and I enjoyed the set as best I could. I had seen him play live before; at Exeter Oxjam last year (see my review #28). On that occasion he performed with his quartet, but this time he was alone. On both occasions he gave a fine performance.

The Harping Mad Set:  I was not familiar with this duet at all, so I was looking forward to seeing them. Unfortunately it was their set that suffered most from the poor sound quality, so I learnt very little about them or their music. There was a lady on Harp and a man on recorders; and they looked good. I say ‘looked good’ because I could hardly hear a note or a word! The recorders came through well enough, but the harp and vocals were barely audible; and that is a great shame because I wanted to hear them. As far as I could hear though, they were very good indeed.

The Devonbird Set:  MoC Tony (violinist Sophia’s Dad) introduced the band and mentioned that he used to be their original guitarist – a fact that had somehow previously eluded me! My readers may remember Tony’s fine portrayal of a Saracen in the band’s video for the song ‘Greenwood Tree’. (See my review #58). For those not familiar with the line-up, Devonbird currently consist of: Kath Bird (vocals, guitar, whistle); Sophia Colkin (fiddle); and Rob Wheaton (guitar). These three regulars were supplemented for the night by the addition of an excellent drummer / percussionist: Martyn Hillstead. 

The set began with ‘Mary’, a Trad-style song about Kath’s Nan. This was followed by the Irish tunes ‘King Of The Fairies / Morrison’s Jig’. Kath, barefoot and perfectly in synch with Sophia’s fine fiddling, was impressive; while at all times Rob and Martyn (with bodhran) kept a reliable rhythm. This is a lively number, and the audience were keen to get involved by clapping along.

Every song from the new album was played, from the foot-tapping ‘Rain Dance’, to the wonderful ‘Dead King’s Land’ with its reverb’ed guitar intro. In addition they played ‘The Bold Grenadier’ – which Kath told us was the first song she ever sang live. (This song has not appeared on either of the band’s two albums). Also they gave us ‘The Crow On The Craddle’; and from the first album, their medley ‘Brannigan’s Ball…’ et al. Their main set finished with the remarkable ‘Star People’, for which Sophia played her electric fiddle, and Rob his 12-string. Great stuff!

Encore!  Of course, the choice for encore – and the only track from the new album not yet played – was the band’s wonderful celebration of Sylvania: ‘Greenwood Tree / Jenny Wren’. It was a fitting end to the show. Worthy applause having been received, all that was left was for Kath to thank all those who had made the night possible – and memorable.

It was a great shame about the technical difficulties during the first part of the evening (had I been there in person, I needn’t have worried of course); but it was a good performance from all the musicians concerned. The second album release from Devonbird is now available, and in my opinion, well worth purchasing. See the band live too if you can. PTMQ

For more info about Devonbird, see my articles: #4 All About Devonbird;  #28 Oxjam Folk Fest;  #57 Practice and Planning;  #58 Video Shooting;  #59 at Romford Folk Club; and  #71 Turning Of The Year Album Review.

The band’s revamped website is here….

http://www.devonbird.co.uk/

60. GREG HANCOCK “Comfortable Hatred” EP (2015)

Comfortable Hatred (Photo; Greg Hancock)

Comfortable Hatred, Greg Hancock

I first became aware of singer / song-writer Greg Hancock at Exeter Oxjam last November, which I had been invited to by my good friends in Devonbird; and where I met so many excellent musicians, and some other interesting people too (see my Blog entry #28). Several album reviews on this Blog came about as the result of direct or indirect contacts I made that day: See my reviews of Ange Hardy (Blog #32);  Emily Howard (Blog #37); and Daria Kulesh (Blog #35).  This EP review is yet another example of a spin-off from that one gig. All in all it was a very good event to attend for many reasons.

Greg was one of those involved in the organisation of the gig; and played a fine set with his quartet too. His set that day included two of the songs in this new collection. Two members of the band have worked on the EP with him: Jo Hooper (Cello); and Lukas Drinkwater (Double Bass). Greg of course handles acoustic guitar and vocals.

Comfortable Hatred is a collection of five original songs penned by the man himself. It is subtitled ‘Stories, portraits and observations of life’s unpredictability’ – and I think that is fair comment. They are songs that are very strong lyrically; and in terms of subject matter, undoubtedly unique. Three of the five have something to do with old ladies. I’d refer the reader to the link below which has the lyric for each song, in order to see for yourself the depth and strength of these words. There are other snippets of information there too; And as my regular readers will know, I like a bit of background info to add to the listening experience.

First up is ‘Old Lady’ which I first enjoyed at the Oxjam gig. It is apparently inspired by an interview with the legendary Joni Mitchell. It is obvious that Greg is fascinated by Joni in the interview – if not generally. Musically it has a Jazzy, plucky rhythm guitar part that’s difficult to prevent the mind rolling with, even when the song is finished! A good start.

‘Buckles And Buttons’ is a thoughtful meancholy song in three verses. ‘The lover; the family man; the soldier. Three male archetypes that don’t really stand up to a close look’, Greg tells us. Jo’s cello adds a depth to this song that enhances the mental anguish that these three characters are experiencing. Very insightful observations on male stereotypes.

Lyrically ‘Three Conversations’ is constructed in a similar way to ‘Buckles…’; having three verses, each dealing with a sub-section that come together to create the main theme. Each tells of a bizarre verbal exchange – presumably had, or heard by Greg himself; and each leaving him nonplussed! Musically it is more like ‘Old Lady’; although with a more melancholy ambience.

The title track is based on an observation of the wierdly workable relationship between two elderly ladies – Grace and Margaret – which is paradoxically both antagonistic and symbiotic (can’t live with her; can’t live without her, type of thing). Its quite amusing too. The guitar on this track is very nice indeed.

Finally ‘The Baby’s Head’ ends the collection. This is another of the songs I first heard at the Oxjam gig. Greg wrote this after reading a story about a young family trying to escape their plight in Syria. It is a poignant tale; but one with a happy ending.

The EP was recorded at Rapunzel Recording Studios in Seaton, Devon.  The quirky (perhaps slightly disturbing) cover illustration is by Julia Hamilton, and is entitled ‘Grace And Margaret’ after the two characters in the title track. I cannot comment on the CD case / sleeve because I’ve only worked from a download.

I like Comfortable Hatred  – mostly for its excellent thought-provoking lyrics; although I also love the guitar on ‘Old Lady’ and the title track. Also Greg’s vocals are good; and he, Jo and Lukas have  generally done a very fine job of arranging the music between them. Lyrically, its easily the best collection I’ve heard this year, and is unlikely to be supplanted. If you’re into thoughtful songs, then I’d recommend this EP – well worth £4 for a download!  PTMQ

Here is a link to Greg’s website… http://www.greghancockmusic.com/

Here is a link to Bandcamp where you may listen to, or download the songs; and read the lyrics..

http://greghancock.bandcamp.com/album/comfortable-hatred