166902_250056101706651_204372703_nOkay, we are over the line, there is no stopping now. Welcome to December. From here on in things will slowly descend into the dreaded realm of the enforced wackiness of office parties, of trying to look enthusiastic through karaoke dross, of consumerism and excess. But let us not forget the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of someone whose work is an inspiration to millions and who we celebrate in song at this special time. Yes, 25th December is of course the birthday of Shane McGowan and we should remember this fact whenever we attempt the dual vocal part of Fairytale of New York.

But before that you can still find solace in some non-seasonal, cross-denominational, original music especially if roots and blues is your sort of thing.


The Shudders, Johnny Payne and Jim Blair @ The Victoria

For their last regular show of the year at The Victoria, Songs of Praise have put together a wonderful package of music that loosely falls into the roots and Americana musical discipline. Opening the night if Hip Route front band Jim Blair with a solo set of his trademark funky, blues grooves and dexterous slide and lap guitar deliveries. Jonny Payne follows him without his usual backing band The Thunder but still able to deliver an impressive, stripped back set of blues, soul, folk and country blends. The headliner for the evening is The Shudders a band who have wandered from Old World folk roots towards New World traditions and the result is a wonderful lo-fi, country-rook that references the likes of Neil Young and Green on Red but delivers the goods with a quintessentially British signature.

Christopher Rees @ The Beehive
And in the “if you like that you might also like this” category, The Beehive are offering something in a similar vein with Christopher Rees. The national music press has heaped praise on this Welshman’s six albums to date and it isn’t hard to see why as his feisty and wilful songs brim with the same whiskey wisdom that rules through Tom Waits music and are home to the same type of outsiders and lost souls.


The Model Folk @ The Beehive

And staying at The Beehive for Friday, roots music of a completely different vibe can be found in the guise of The Model Folk. Inspiration comes from Balkan folk traditions; shrieking clarinet and thundering bass lines clash with wheezing harmonium and more as they fire off musical salvos telling tales of steam, soviet farming machinery, 1930s drag queens, circuses and tea. Think Gogol Bordello meets back of a transit van, cider-festival folk-punk… or something. I dunno.


The Hamsters From Hell @ The Wroughton Club

And Saturday is the day for blues fans. The tongue in cheek variant of the genre comes courtesy of The Hamsters From Hell who mix wonderfully dexterous boozy blues with sweary and silly lyrical salvos. You’ll dance, you’ll drink, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry. It’ll change your life.


Jamie Thyer and His Worried Men @ The Rolleston

The more serious end of things can be found at The Rolleston as Jamie Thyer brings his Worried Men to the venue to deliver some incendiary guitar that invokes the likes of Thorogood, Gary Moore and even Wilko Johnson.


The Shudders @ The Rolleston

They may have already gigged in town this week, but this show sees them in stripped back form, which puts a whole different slant on their songs.