Sunday, 29 September 2013

Joanne Shaw Taylor: Black Country blues. From Detroit.

JST's latest CD - live, one take stuff
In November, a Detroit-based blues guitarist comes to Birmingham Town Hall. Nothing particularly unusual in that, of course, we get touring US musicians all the time. But this one’s different. Joanne Shaw Taylor is a Brit, born in the Black Country, raised in Solihull and elsewhere across the West Midlands, and she’s got a ton of local connections. .

Now, she’s based stateside, by no means the only Brit to have moved countries to further a career. More recently, Davy Knowles, from tiny Port St Mary in the Isle of Man, relocated to the US to further his blues career, while Birmingham’s Toy Hearts – familiar to Joanne from their sets at the Roadhouse in Stirchley, South Birmingham - are currently in the middle of a very extended spell playing Western Swing and Bluegrass and working out of Austin, Texas.

It's not the first time that British musos have taken their versions of USA music back to the mother ship. Rewarding though it may be, it’s not the easiest of paths to travel.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Eight musicians, eight different cultures. Five days to write, rehearse and prepare for one live gig.

A Birmingham story: Culture Shock
The inaugural Culture Shock in 2012
The day after this blog post is published, a clutch of musicians from across Birmingham will meet up for five days of intensive creation and experimentation, culminating in an evening of live music on Saturday 28th September, at St Annes Church, Park Hill in Moseley, Birmingham. 

This is Culture Shock, now in its second year. It’s a free event, supported by a range of institutions, and powered by the adventurous collaborative spirit of the participants - a leap of faith in many ways.

Keyboardist Pete Nickless holds this project together, working from a multi-purpose music studio at the seriously industrial top end of Digbeth, Birmingham. It bristles with instruments, including – oh joy – a Hammond organ complete with Leslie cabinet. And Pete's boundless enthusiasm. It's one hell of a brave project; yet another reason for us to have such fierce pride in our musicians.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Dan Whitehouse: old craft, new songs, growing audiences.

How a song develops, from raw demo to the finished article: hear both in this post. 

I first heard Dan Whitehouse when scheduling Rhubarb Radio’s output in 2011, in the dying days of its second incarnation. I used just local material, mixing the best of West Midlands music makers into one audio stream. 

It was great. I got to listen to lots of music in different combinations, which is always interesting. And I saw how unusual and new songs bedded in on air with consistent and repeated play, the way they are delivered on mainstream radio..

Dan’s songs worked brilliantly. The more they came round, the better they sounded. That may well be because of how he crafts his songs. They wear well; they stick in the memory. 

It seems to be working for him. On Sunday 29th September, Dan put together a particularly lavish hometown launch gig for his second album, Reaching For A State Of Mind. Unsurprisingly, the gig sold out.  

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Ruby Turner: keep your eyes on the prize.

I’m excited. Ruby’s got a hometown gig coming up. 
Ruby.  For people, not just midlanders, who know her and love her work, that’s all you need to say: Ruby. One word for one of the finest soul singers the UK has ever produced. She really is that good. 

For those who don’t know her, well, this is Ruby Turner, with a career that puts her all over Radio 2, on the bill at the Queen's Jubilee, as one of Jools Holland’s featured vocalists, on the bill at the 1999/2000 Millenium Dome launch, world tours, the lot. She's recorded with everybody, had hits worldwide, and for some time has very deliberately and calmly steered her own career with some hand-picked advisers.

So now we have a Ruby Turner band tour this autumn, with a hometown gig set for October 16th at the Crossing in Digbeth, Birmingham. I’m pleased. It’s been a long time…

Monday, 2 September 2013

Six acts that latecomers missed at Moseley Folk

It wasn't just about the headliners over a sunny weekend of music and more. 

I love the days at Moseley Folk Festival. There’s not the same focus as night-times. Instead, there’s a delicious open fluid vibe. People meet and collaborate; alliances and friendships are formed. Careers are launched. New talent is generously received by warm audiences; hardened established acts stop to check out the host of new local faces the festival showcases. 

I spent my time buzzing from stage to tent to stage, snapping, gassing, interviewing and recording; some of this is after the jump. The shots are mine except where credited. All but one of the recordings were taken live in the audience: warts, kids and crowd noise and all, and my deepest thanks go to the artists, and Moseley Folk Festival, for letting me post them. 

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Details: Too Late To Stop Now

When is a good time to start a band? And what do you want to do and say when you do start?

The Details attempt louche
Last week, at a motorway service station, two wannabe rock stars waltzed in as I slouched out. They were perfect. Shades, crucial hair, skinny jeans, tats, floppy t-shirts under leather jackets, and the killer look-at-me-I’m-a-star-flounce. 

Of course, had they been the real thing, they wouldn’t have strutted into Cherwell Valley services for a pee with the rest of us. But they wanted attention, throwing shapes while loading up on Krispy Kreme. Bless. 

It’s always a tricky thing, being in a band. But at least these boys had youth on their side to bash through the obstacles.

It’s trickier throwing yourself back in the game again after 40 years. The Details, four excellent musicianly veterans of the Birmingham scene, have just released a thoughtful, demanding album, loaded with sparkling fretwork and crafted songs. The biggest challenges they face will be getting new listeners to work at their music. And... they are old. Very old. Um, like me.