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Blues

Norfolk’s finest Mr. David Viner returns with first insight to new unreleased album

 

 

Mr. David Viner is a musician who has never really let everyone at thisyearinmusic down. Each album shows a marked progression from the one that came before. As he’s got older, and more confident in his song-writing abilities, Viner has been redefining acoustic-indie-blues. His dextrous finger picking and penchant for wistful lyricism, but all wrapped up in bedsit chic.

 

 

New song Plaza opens with a jaunty finger picked intro before Viner’s dulcet tones envelope us like a favourite towel after a bath. We’re warmed by his tones of love, rejection and redemption. This is Viner masterstroke. At first you think the lyrics are as upbeat as the music, but after a few listens you realise this is not the case.

 

 

As the years go on, Viner sounds more and more like Leonard Cohen. This is not a bad thing, as Viner’s songs are filled with pathos and tongue in cheek jokes. This is exemplified with the following lyric “And I stand before you soaked through and undressed, And I sing before you broken blind and blessed”. Given this is the only song off Viner’s next, and so far untitled and unreleased, album it’s hard to tell what the rest will be like, but let’s hope it’s as flawless as his 2004 classic This Boy Don’t Care.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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John J Presley offer an interesting take on a classic song

 

 

When I first heard John J. Presley a few years ago, I commented to a friend that he sounded like a mixture of Nick Cave and Tom Waits, so his new track is no surprise. The only real surprise is why has it taken him so long to record and release it?

 

 

The main difference between Waits’ version and this is that Presley has slowed it down. At first this sentence doesn’t make sense, given that the original was never played at breakneck speed, but Presley’s version is slower. At firs this sounds jarring and you hope it’ll speed up, but after a few listens you get it and realise that the space between the notes and vocals is transfixing and adds something that Waits never had. Malice.

 

 

While Presley makes this cover his own, it never eclipse the original. This isn’t a unexpected as Waits’ 1980 version is a classic. However given Presley’s vocal range and penchant for the blues, this could have been something very special indeed.

 

 

Tour Dates
April 20 – The Shacklewell Arms, London
May 24 – Indo, London
July 25 – Golden Slippers at Blacks Club, London

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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After a seven year break, indie’s bluesman returns

 

 

When I was a uni there was a massive explosion in bands. And what’s more they all wanted me to see them play live. Life was pretty busy, juggling seminars, essays, course work, seeing that bands whose name sounds like a naughty child, or that dancey lot with the odd font. One musician I never got tired of seeing was Mr. David Viner. Granted I didn’t see him a lot, maybe five times either supporting like-minded bands or headlining his own shows, but they were always worth it. After three flawless albums in five years he vanished off the face of the musical landscape.

 

 

That is until now. Seven years since his last album Among the Rumours and the Rye, Viner has returned with So Well Hid. I know what you’re thinking “During this period of self-imposed exile, what’s the music like? Has he changed his style?” Luckily the answer is simple. The music is good, and age, like with wine and whiskey, as sharpened his songwriting. Obviously there are subtle changes though. Gone is jaunty blusesque guitar playing, and piano is now vying for Viner’s affection as weapon of choice.

 

 

Opening, and title track, So Well Hid has a chord progression similar Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game. This is where the similarity ends though. Lyrically, it appears, Viner has been listening to Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen a lot in the last seven years. Cave’s storytelling prowess oozes all over So Well Hid, and Cohen’s vocal delivery has clearly influenced Viner in recent years. Fields of Akeldema follows on the storytelling vibe. Viner croons “I’ve got a good life, a job and a car, a home and a wife” as the backing band saunters on in the back ground.

 

 

On I’d Love to Kill You and Chelsea Smile No.2 you can almost see Cohen’s shadow casting over the song. I’d Love to Kill You is reminiscent of So Long Marianne, in strumming and verse structure, and after the intro you catch yourself mouthing the words. The inclusion of horns on both tracks is an inspired touch as it adds a mournful feeling usually missing from pop music. It’s inclusion brings to mind Conan Mockasin’s early work. Clever lyrics, great melody, but with a hint of melancholy.

 

 

The stand out tracks on the album are right near the end. The Beast of Baxter Springs and The Orchid. They both sound like they’ve lifted out of Pino Donaggio or Franco Bixio scores, but their inclusion gives the album not only a change in texture but in pace too. There is a hint of Hank Marvin in the guitar paying too. Either Viner has spent the intervening years watching every Spaghetti Western he can, or he’s played a lot of Red Dead Redemption. Either why it helps bring the album to a glorious close.

 

 

The only downside to the album is Viner’s influences are on display more than on his previous three. This is fine, but in the past he’s used them to forward his song writing, but on So Well Hid he appears to be following them. Also the flow of the album seems off, as it sounds at times like a collection of singles instead of a cohesive body of work. This might be down to when the songs were originally recorded. Personally I’m putting this down to being out of the saddle for too long and all will be on track for Mr. David Viner IV, please don’t wait another seven years though…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Debut EP from West London riffsmiths showcases their indie blues skills to the Nth degree

 

 

The Chairs are progressive. Their live shows ooze it and debut EP rams it down your throat. While the riffs aren’t as psychotic as on previous releases, there is an overriding vibe that pervades their music. It’s the sound of four young men, who are passionate about music, extremely proficient at playing and don’t want to take the easy route. Their music is rooted in the blues, their time signatures aren’t. Jazz and prog influences pepper their sets. Coming from Ealing, the spiritual home of contemporary music, and being influenced by bands such as Radiohead and the Mars Volta isn’t a bad thing either.

 

The Opening track on The Chairs EP Long Live the King is a pretty acoustic number, think Ry Cooder’s Paris Texas soundtrack and you’re close, which declares that “the blues is the most important music on the planet”. After this opening sojourn the EP gets going in earnest. Bluesy Song does what it says on the tin. Its infectious riff is everything we’ve come to expect from lead guitarist Russell Newman’s playing. In Martin Bonner The Chairs not only have a charismatic frontman, but the kind of voice that sounds like he’s spent his life gargling gravel, eating lit cigarettes an washing it all down with cheap whiskey. On Bluesy Song he not only shows us what he can do, but gives his voice a decent work out. Hands and Knees follows on in the same vein, but the guitars are crunchier and sound larger than life. Pendulum is an optimistic jaunt about the power of positive thinking. As Bonner sings “One of these days it’s gonna swing back my way” you generally believe him and want things to get better. However said blues is depressing needs to hear this. Black and White has an indie disco vibe to it. Krys Szymanski’s hypnotic drumming is the real star of the show. If Black and White was all about Szymanski, Pure Sleeze all about Michael McLoughlin’s pulsating bass work. On the first listen you don’t realise his importance in the back, but after a few successive playbacks you are drawn to it.

 

 

Ultimately The Chairs EP is a perfectly captures their incendiary live shows, but not at the expense of their deft interplay and musical vision. Lyrically The Chairs EP is all about life, love, the universe and everything. In a way you feel sorry for Bonner and co as relationship problems pepper each song, and you want them to be happy, but would they write as emotive songs though? One of the downsides is that you don’t really witness the power and range of Bonner’s voice or the virtuosity nature of Newman’s playing. Also the prog elements have been toned down for more standard composition and production. Debut single What’s the Sound? sounded like the Mars Volta covering the Rolling Stones classic Paint it Black, a couple of tracks like that wouldn’t have gone a miss. However The Chairs EP is everything that we’ve come to expect from West London’s best hidden secret. Let’s hope a follow up isn’t too long in the offing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’ll keep this short and sweet. This weekend the annual Ealing Blues Festival. Those of you who have been know what a wonderful thing it is, those who haven’t, shame on you! Here is a quick rundown of who and where to see on Saturday.

 

 

The Bronsons will be hitting the South Stage at 15:30 – 16:30 on Saturday. Their hybrid of Pub Rock meets Rhythm and Blues will give everyone a burst of musical sunshine, even if the real Sun isn’t out.

 

 

 

 

Tommy Allen is a musical journeyman, if ever there was one. Playing along side Lazy Lester, Otis Taylor and Big Joe Turner, along with pop acts like Sugababes, Allen has a CV to envy. Trafficker is the outlet for his own compositions though. Their brand of heavy riffs with intricate solos makes them a must see. They’ll be on the main stage from 15:45.

 

 

 

 

Mumbo Jumbo are an acoustic trio from the Midlands. If you think Three Bonzo’s and a Piano, you’re on the right tracks. They’re songs are about the life experience of seasoned musicians, and are heavily laden with humour and pathos. Anyone near the South Stage at 17:00 on Saturday is in for a treat.

 

 

 

Spikedrivers are something that needs to be seen. Channelling Blind Lemon Jefferson and Big Bill Broonzy, but with a contemporary twist, along with an ad hoc approach to percussion they are a must see. Oh keep an eye out for the human washboard player… They will be setting the main stage alight from 17:30.

 

 

 

 

Mark Harrison makes the kind of music that is impossible not to listen to. Full of clever hooks and witty arrangements he is slowly making a name for himself in rootys blues scene. Musically he is similar to Alabama 3, but stripped back and not as lairy. Harrison’s set at 18:45 on the South Stage will be perfect for when the Sun starts to dip behind the tree line.

 

 

 

 

Ealing’s Devil Drivers have taken the blueprint that the Vaughn brothers laid down and have re-written it. High energy playing, ridiculous solos and a heavy dose of self referential lyrics mean that their 19:30 Main Stage set will have a little something for everyone.

 

 

 

 

Jump 66 sound like they’ve listened to nothing but blues, rocksteady, rock ‘n’ roll and ska. The musical developments of 20th Centuries have passed them by, but when they make music this good, you can’t really blame them. If you’ve come for a dance, then Jump 66 are the band for you! This year they have the honour of closing the South Stage from 20:30 until 10

 

 

 

 

Dom and The Ikos take their name and sound from New Orleans. As expected they’ve played with some of the biggest names of the New Orleans scene from Maceo Parker to the Night Tripper himself Dr. John. Anyone who is into this music will not want to miss their headline slot on the Main Stage from 21:00 – 22:30. They also have the honour of closing the first day too. See you there then!

 

 

So there you have it! As the music is taken care of all we really need is a bit of luck with the weather and we’ll have the best weekend of the year so far!

 

 

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This year’s Hanwell Hootie looks set to eclipse last years

 

 

While a one day music festival in Hanwell in West London might not appear to make much sense at first, if you do a little digging, it makes perfect sense. Hanwell might not be as pretty as other parts of West London and Ealing, it is actually rich with culture and history. Led Zeppelin used to practice in Hanwell, as did Deep Purple and the Who. Jimi Hendrix owned a house there. Jay Kay, of Jamiroquai fame, and the Magic Numbers both hailed from Hanwell. However the most important resident of Hanwell was on Jim Marshall. Marshall created a unique amplifier for guitars and his original shop was in Hanwell.

 

 

The first Hanwell Hootie took place in 2013. The main event was the unveiling of a blue plaque on the clock tower, to honour Marshall and cement his place not only in musical history, but in local folklore too. 2013’s Hootie had thirteen bands in three pubs. Last year there were thirty bands in six pubs and 3 ‘Hootie Fringe’ venues. This year there are forty five bands in eleven venues. What’s more this year’s line-up looks even better than last year. Established bands are rubbing shoulders with new up and coming bands. It is this mix that make this year’s line-up exciting.

 

 

 

 

The four bands that stand out are Francis Gahan Band, Two Hands, Du Bellows, Jacob and Goliath and Ella and the Blisters. Each of these bands typifies the quality and depth of the current West London scene. The Francis Gahan Band give the blues a folk rock twist, not unlike like Gomez, but they enthuse their sets with pop hooks. Two Hands make a loud noise and play rhythmic hard rock. Du Bellows channel the spirit of classic Fleetwood Mac, but at folk flourishes, lyrically, to create something that is not easily forgotten. Jacob and Goliath effortlessly mix pop and good old fashioned song writing to create a Mumford-esque sound. Ella and the Blisters are a rag tag band of gypsy swing folk rock misfits. Their songs are filled with the sounds of the past, but with contemporary social commentary and stories of now.

 

So what else have you go to do this weekend, then come on down to Hanwell and pay your tribute, not just to a slew of great bands, but to the Father of Loud!

 

 

 

 

 

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Notting Hill pubs starts farewell party in fitting style

 

 

Walking into a gig and hearing a band playing can mean either one of two things. Firstly you’re late and you might have missed your favorite song, or secondly you are early and it’s just the sound check. Luckily last night it was the latter. When I arrived at the Elgin in Notting Hill, the bands were just finishing their sound check. Phew! I got a pint of the black stuff and found a good place to perch. The gig in question was Du Bellows. I’d only seen them a few weeks earlier, but I was looking forward to this one as there was a hint of new songs. But first was the formality of the opening act.

 

 

The support came from Grace Moon and the Jaguar. For whatever reason the coming to the stage thirty minutes late. Having recently released their debut EP, this duo make music that conjures up the past. I don’t mean that they’re a cover band, far from it, although their cover of Have Love Will Travel does need to be seen live to do it justice. They take elements from the past and create something new. A hint of Paris in the 1920’s. A snatch of James Bond’s London in the early 1960’s, and a little bit of Angelo Badalamenti thrown in for fun. Add some jazz leanings coupled with some European suave and swagger and you have a winning combination. Their set’s highlight was Night River. Having only heard this through speakers before, seeing it performed live was a revelation. They captured the essence of the track, but due to playing live it’s phrasing and instrumentation took on a whole new vibe. When their set finished the crowd was left wanting more, hopefully it won’t be long before they’re on stage again.

 

 

 

 

After a short interval the headliners took the stage. In the short time since I’d last seen Du Bellows, a change had taken place. They seemed more confident. Maybe that was down to knowing they had new songs to play that people hadn’t heard before. Possibly it was due to a successful string of gigs, or even that they were still buzzing from being announced as Alabama 3’s support at upcoming shows. But they looked ready and hungry to play.

 

 

Opening track Tepid Water kicked things off nicely. When they finished the crowd showed their appreciation with a rousing applause. Next up was Otherside, another fan favourite. In parts of the crowd, loyal fans were singing along with the catchy verses and choruses. Silurian Woman was next to grace our ears, and like the two previous song, it received a fervent applause. The rest of the set was a blur of enjoyment, until the outro of Dry Flowers, when the realisation that it was all over swept over the crowd. A riotous applause greeted the band at the end of their blistering set.

 

 

There were new songs in the set. They had the same power and intensity of the old favourites, if one of them did sound reminiscent of Blueberry Hill, but that might have just been me. While it was great to see the new writing direction of the band, their inclusion did rob us of one of Du Bellow’s finest songs, Isa Du Bellow. But you can’t have everything right?

 

 

This wasn’t a standard performance though. Du Bellows had more bite than usual. They played like they had something to prove. Darley Mylan’s amp sounded like it had moments to live, gritty and visceral. Jade Williams was taking no prisoners with her husky sultry vocals. The rhythm section of TJ, Richard Leeds and David Watkinson were well oiled and a pleasure to watch.

 

 

The only down side to the gig was that the Elgin is stopping original live music. Yes they’ll still have cover bands, but that’s not really the same is it? That’s like telling he Marcus Wareing can only serve microwave meals in his restaurants or letting Alexis Sanchez only play football bootless. I’m sure that in time this original live music embargo will be lifted, but for now get down to the Elgin as much as you can before it’s gone. London. You have been notified!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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