Black Sheep Apprentice – Born To Walk Alone  (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

151612241.jpg.galleryI’ve been listening to this album on and off for the last week trying to formulate a way of starting off this review but never really feeling like I have enough information to give a review befitting what occurs within the 10+ tracks of this collection of songs from Swindon’s ‘grown-up Country’ specialists, so I find myself returning to the album to try and kick my ears into instructing my hands what to write.

And it’s proving difficult.

I think maybe the best place to start is with the warning; don’t get comfortable. This is not a generic album by any means and is happy to make you tap your feet and slap your thighs as it is in giving you a dizzying moment of “well where the hell are we going now!?”.

I’ve made no secret in previous reviews that I like opening tracks and this album’s opener starts in moody, Sergio Leone territory, a land of squawking buzzards overhead, dusty plains, creaking salon doors and a lone church bell ringing, it’s quite cinematic, it’s dramatic and you settle down for a dip into country music but no, this isn’t that kind of a show cowboy, after 35-40 secs we’re replacing that atmosphere with a bouncy opening track called ‘Let It Go’ which almost acts as a piece of advice because if you had any preconceptions about what to expect from this band, forget it, let it go because what you can expect – other than well written songs and more than a nod to the macabre – is the unexpected.

Tread carefully because this path isn’t familiar to most.

 

The music runs a deftly course between the dark ‘deal-with-the-Devil’ country music through the blues of the whiskey joints of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana where ghosts sit on the shoulders of wandering strangers, into rock and maybe even a little indie-rock. It wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve and the songs are songs of regret, often loneliness but definitely of experience the running order of the songs at times feels like they are going through certain emotions from loss (in Let it Go, Thrown Away, Water) to acceptance (Born to Walk Alone) to resolve (in Pheonix, I Curse Your Name and the demented but crowd roaring Black Sheep Apprentice) and they are all delivered with a voice sounding closer to Geddy Lee of Rush than the storytelling voice of Johnny Cash. Another leftfield twist.

I would have liked to have heard more growl on the bass at times and a few of the songs could have been shaved here and there but one man’s snack is another man’s feast and this is a big album, an album that gives you a lot of bang for your buck and doesn’t skimp on what’s included, which seems to be the band’s heart, blood, sweat, tears and balls!

After hearing what the band can do I’ll be catching them live very soon, there seems to be energy in spades on offer here that can only be best experienced live, so give the album a listen and catch a gig or two.

 

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Sounds Around Town : 17th -23rd May

10697395_839039612784945_1481683335433694579_oNot the busiest of weeks for live music coming up but with the summer finally kicking in, I guess barbecues and pub gardens, days out in exotic places, festivals and nights camped under the stars are preferable to being shut in a loud, dark, beer sodden room with dozens of other sweaty people. Live music is okay with that. Live music understands. Live music is patient. Live music will be here waiting when you are ready to come back inside.

That said there is a triptych of great, original offerings to entice you in happening around Old Town tonight and at The Victoria you will find those perennial musical mind-benders, Sex Jazz and their insect fixated, bass heavy, Zappa-infused, psychedelic-punk. Joining them is Cracked Machine, purveyors of intense, droning, proggy soundscapes and RRS a one man band of glitchy, lo-hi weirdness.

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Sounds Around Town : 10th – 16th May

9280Sometimes in this column I get to talk about iconic artists. More usually I talk about local favourites. For once I get to talk about a band which is the perfect blend of both as Tin Spirits (pictured) can be found at The Victoria tonight. It’s a band of four experienced, highly talented and well-liked musicians, including a certain Mr Dave Gregory, the music errs on the side of prog, you will know and love the song selections and if you are lucky you may even get a song or two from “that” band.

Meanwhile, down at The Beehive, all the way from Sacramento …via Cambridge, Berlin, the astral plane and many points in between Anton Barbeau can be found plying his slightly wonk, paisley patterned, pre-apocalyptic psychedelic pop, music which fans of the likes of Julian Cope and Syd Barrett will appreciate. There is a new band in tow and a new record to be had so what are you waiting for.

Friday sees Over To You playing their farewell show at The Victoria, one last time to throw your self around to their punk-pop goodness. The show is free and there will be t-shirts and CD’s to be had. Joining them to make sure they go out with a bang are local post-hardcore posse Eden Falls and grunge infused trio Three Dead up from Bristol. 

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Sounds Around Town : 3rd – 9th May

1472801_551493731605357_193622463_nWith the May Day bank holiday looming on the horizon it means that the coming long weekend packs even more live music options and so without further ado, let’s dive straight in.

Tonight, as is usual, tips the balance towards the original artist with stalwarts Hip Route to be found at The Tuppenny in Old Town. For those unaware of the band, and I can’t image I am talking to many people, this three-piece are purveyors of funky-blues delivered via a killer rhythm section, some deft and dexterous slide guitar-work and a whiskey soaked vocal straight out of an East Nashville juke joint. A hip operation if ever there was one.

At The Victoria you will find something a bit more weird but no less wonderful. All three acts, Dinner The Band, Ravetank and Spring-Heeled Lettuce, come from the musical fringes, one where wonky, lo-fi acoustica, punk’s DIY ethic and a complete disregard for following fashion are the order of the day.

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This year’s Shuffle line up in full

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Sounds Around Town : 26th April – 2nd May

Dreadzone-c-Simon-Partington-_MG_5821.jpgFor those who say that nothing ever happens in Swindon, this week is set to prove them very wrong, as not one but two big name bands with long histories, varied and fascinating careers and a wealth of albums behind them can be found nested in amongst the usual, more localised, musical fare. But more of that later.

Wilding, an act which has both grown in number and shrunken in name, since the eponymous George’s solo days, will be taking to The Victoria’s stage tonight and I highly recommend that you check them out. Combining the front man’s lyrical wit and wisdom with a band of seasoned players means that they can finally reach the sonic heights that their recorded work encapsulated and believe me you will want to experience that. With new indie outfit Compact Pussycat opening the night this is a great way to kick off the weekend.

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Sounds Around Town : 19th – 25th April

27503378_1049985821809631_747397107544723842_o.jpgIt’s a controversial issue for sure and at the risk of sounding like one of these music snobs that you always hear about, I am going to raise the point anyway. You could consider covers and tributes as the mass entertainment of the live gigging circuit and original music as the way to ensure that things keep moving forward. Both are required. The former largely keeps venues and music pubs in business these days, the latter feeds into the wider music system and bigger, further flung venues to keep musical evolution a going concern. I only mention this because this week I have been unable to find many original gigs to fill this column and that does beg the question that without that input of new creativity what does the future look like? Is new music taking place outside the traditional live venue circuit? Are we locked into a rose-tinted era of comfort and familiarity? Where will new music come from if not the small, grassroots venues? Enough speculation, on to business.

Blues is on the menu at The Beehive tonight as Built For Comfort offer up the sound of traditional Chicago blues with a few detours through the Memphis and New Orleans scene, expect sultry guitars, organ flourishes (steady) and some solid grooving music. Also following a traditional route but this time down an English folk pathway Splat The Rat take rustic songs from the days of yore and update them for the modern audience at The Victoria.

The one totally original show I could find this week takes place at The Tuppenny and features the welcome return of Phil Cooper (pictured) as he promotes his most excellent and highly recommended new album Thoughts and Observations. He blends the likes of Crowded House and David Gray’s deft pop through his own enlightening songs. Also on the bill is Sarah C. Ryan and her own take on folk and roots infused guitar pop.

Friday sees two helpings of old-school rock for your enjoyment. Firstly at The Victoria Rorke’s Drift and Black Rose line up a set of iconic numbers from the halcyon days of the genre delivered with all the power and the glory of those original bands. Those of a less nervous disposition might wish to head over to The Swiss Chalet for a slice of The Chaos Brothers. They aim to “play the Three Chords of Freedom to an unsuspecting and largely uncaring world” but the reality is that they generally play punk, rock, glam and metal to a rowdy and drunken gathering.

If something smoother and more considered is required then The Soul Man at The Grove’s Company Inn is the gig for you, especially if the golden age of soul, Wilson Pickett, Sam Cooke, The Drifters and the like is your cup of honeyed sonic tea. The Ultimate Band bring the wide appeal of the function band and a diverse and infectious mix of music to The Queen’s Tap whilst Monkey Dolls at The Castle play songs which you probably know but are less likely to hear from your average cover band.

Nuttyness pay tribute to Camden Town’s finest skanking, 2-tone revivalists, Madness, at The Victoria on Saturday so expect a night of ska-pop fun and frolics and all the hits and iconic songs that you know and love. Also playing some groovesome and accessible tunes is Felix and the Funk who will be filling the Haydon Wick Club with all the iconic sonic moments from funk (natch) pop, soul, reggae, dance and disco. Rugs will be cut, wigs will be flipped and dance floors filled.

Funk and rock pair up at The Queen’s Tap as Patsy Gamble and Wishbone Ash’s Muddy Manninen mix up groove, blues, funk, rock and soul into covers and originals at The Queen’s Tap as they lead Hipkiss through their musical moves, Penfold break out the party tunes at The Castle and Stripped take things down a notch or two with acoustic renditions of all your favourites at The Manor.

The Coleview Community Centre starts two days of music with Locarno Beat’s 60’s hits package followed by Get Carter’s pop rock and indie covers on Sunday. Also on Sunday The Revolvers will be bringing a touch of ska to The Duke of Edinburgh.

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