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11133786_10153234946553064_9116099339198896169_n-1Finally, a Christmas song I can get behind. Okay, there have been a few that have tickled the old seasonal baubles before…Fairytale of New York (currently the subject of its own PC hyperbole due to MacGowan’s typical choice words, God knows what would happen if anyone in power really looked into some of his songs,) Stop The Cavalry and Give Peace a Chance (with their anti-war messages) are most of the short list which work for me. So the fact that Phil Cooper, in his usual deft and deliberate fashion, has side-stepped the schmaltz and sentiment that normally infects such sonic fare and with tongue firmly in cheek has tackled the click bait mentality of tabloid journalism and those who (knowingly?) fall for it, means that it can be added to that very short list.

Rocking out in full band mode for change is a great move, it all adds a bit of weight to the message. Making it brilliantly singalong and musically infectious doesn’t hurt either. But it is, as is often the way in Phil’s world, the words which are paramount. As he points out, no one is trying to stop you celebrating Christmas, or any other significant day, as you would like. No-one is bowing down to other cultures, communities or creeds; health and safety isn’t ruining your fun and political correctness isn’t a problem unless you choose it to be. Newspaper headlines and clickbait journalism, instead, are the real problem, but in a world where people’s attention span seems to be measured in scales normally used only in Quantum Physics, people love to let a headline not only ruin their day but colour their world view.

A great song, a great sentiment and I didn’t even mention Brexit or The Daily Mail once!

Damn!

60602588_340086049894894_5875542229027651584_oThere can’t be many musical genres which cling tighter to the nostalgic sounds of their own past than rock ’n’roll. Punk perhaps, but there is something about the golden age of rock’n’roll’s, admittedly massively influential sound, which its devotees seem to wish to protect from the ravages of time and influences of the modern age. And although it provided the shock treatment which allowed the modern musical era to be ushered in, surely it shouldn’t be required to exist in a crepe-shoed, pre-pubescent, nostalgia bubble. Evolution not revolution and all that sort of thing!

And if that be the case then Devil’s Music is the sound of evolution. For this is music with all the hallmarks of the original sound, those bluesy grooves, country licks, natural swing and rock and roll energy but it is also the sound of gentle transition. Rather than a mere plagiarising and plundering of past glories, Devil’s Music is the sound of the next chapter being written, one that continues the story into a logical next chapter. 

Opening sonic salvo Preacher lays the ground work, country-rock fifties style, hypnotic guitar grooves and a melodic bass line, one which works a bit harder than you might expect but after all this isn’t three chord rockabilly, this is something altogether more deftly wrought and dutifully delivered. The title track is full of swing and swagger, No Fury takes simple musical lines and makes them sound busier than they are, that’s what’s called doing a lot with a little, and Mama Don’t is a bundle of pent up energy which explodes, though perhaps not as dramatically as I might have hoped, into an early rock and roll groover.

And if I had any criticism I would have to say that the drums seem to be playing catch up, following the groove of the songs, rather than driving them, which means that they have missed a few opportunities to really kick the point home sonically, to awe when they instead ahh! If you know what I mean. But as a first outing it gets the job done, the songs are a neat call back whilst simultaneously proffering a new, made over take on early rock and roll. A history lesson if you like, but a history lesson that you are going to feel the urge to dance too. Music lessons were never this much fun in my day!

59832831_2835369863156182_5602576901085331456_nA couple of weeks back those awfully nice people at Songs of Praise put on a bit of a blinder of a show. Ex- Case Hardin main man Pete Gow was the headline draw aided and abetted by a band garnered from the great and good of the Clubhouse Record’s roster and a 5-piece string section. In a church! On a Saturday Night! With a bar!

Now, I would have thought that this would be seen as being something a bit special but apparently not. Despite features in The Adver, Ocelot, Swindonian, SOMR and the like, it failed to pull many at all. It was up against some stiff competition with The Radioactive Zombie Mutant Bikers From Hell in town to play loose approximations of tired classic rock songs and Fred Spode offering his take on Joe Bonamassa numbers – so, covers of covers of covers. And what is it with Joe Bonamassa? Apart from blues aficionados, no one had heard of him 5 years ago and now he is touted as some sort of minor diety by cover bands!

Anyway, I digress. So basically you weren’t there, and I have the maths to prove the probability of this sweeping statement. And because you weren’t there you not only missed a glorious set from the aforementioned Clubhouse posse, you missed a elegant and eloquent opening set from Tamsin Quin, helped by Jamie R Hawkins, no slouch as a singer-songwriter himself. It looked a lot like this….

There were plenty of “gutted I missed it,” comments and Instagram hearts after the fact, which is either lovely or annoying depending on your viewpoint, and of course, the lesson learned is that shows like this don’t happen often and when they do they need to be supported. “I’ll catch the next one” doesn’t work if the promoter decides that there is no point doing the next one.

I was just going to post the video and leave it at that, but I do get annoyed at what I perceive as apathy for shows which really bring something new and add a new dimension to an already struggling live circuit. Rant over, I’m off to eat cheese and listen to Mazzy Star, enjoy your Sunday.

image.pngIt feels almost like getting the full set. I’ve recently had music in from both Tamsin Quin and Phil Cooper and as this little pop-folk triptych seem to swirl around in various matched and mixed combinations popping up on each others records or playing in each others bands, it seem entirely right that I have something in from Jamie too.

It’s always hard to make heartfelt music sound sincere, many artists, presumably with the best intentions, fail because they end up resorting to cliche or schmaltz or just suffer from not having a deft enough step to navigate such difficult territory. Jamie has always wandered such pathways with ease. A combination of clean-limbed but clever guitar work and a masterful choice of words deliver the perfect tones of raw honesty that such songs require,  and Thank You, Friend, like many of his songs, drips with exactly the right sentiment. You can fake many things in music, and indeed life, but sincerity is not one of them.

Blending pop accessibility with folk earnestness, intimacy with a universally relatable message, a hint of retreating darkness in a brightening future, a clever mix of dexterous playing with resonant weight,  Thank You, Friend is Jamie doing what he seems to do so  honestly, so exquisitely well, so charmingly and somehow, so effortlessly.

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11133786_10153234946553064_9116099339198896169_n-1Even though it is demonstrably not true, I have been tarred with a reputation for hating covers of songs and those who make them. But I will say that if you are going to attempt a song already in the popular canon, especially one as well known as this, then you need to be either breathing new life into it, giving it a new sonic space to exist in, new musical pastures to frolic in, or you need to be understanding of what makes the song live, its essence and pay tribute to that. And this rather masterful rendition of Crowded House’s most elegant opus (forget all that Weather With You nonsense, this is the real deal) is very much the latter, a tribute.

And who better to take on such a task? Phil always shared certain sonic DNA with Neil Finn, and Neil Finn sits at the right hand of Our Lord Mike Scott so already there is a certain pedigree at work here. I used to book both Phil, and Jamie R Hawkins who is the second vocal which you can hear adding some wonderful harmonic grace to the proceedings, and so even before things kick off the very notion of what is going on here is pretty exciting.

As I said, this is a very faithful rendition, but then again to me, and probably to Phil too, this is hallowed ground so why subvert it when you can pay tribute to it, and pay tribute it does. There is the same elegant dexterity to the guitar work and even without trying to sound like the great man himself, you notice that Phil has exactly the right voice for the job plus Jamie’s  added vocal weight is perfect. Succinct, spacious, eloquent, charming, just like the original.

Not many cover versions live up to the standards set by the original, how could they, but I would say that when you set this next to that glorious single, there isn’t a lot of light shining through the gap and how could you ask for more than that? Okay, a Neil Finn house show, but until that happens…

 

Pre-save for 4th October release

65711033_566705930400984_5857755841741979648_nJust when I have resigned myself to being that stereotypical oldie, moaning about things not being as good as they used to be and being able to remember when all this was fields (….of the Nephilim*) along comes someone to remind me of how good things really are. That there was no past golden age of music, that things are no better nor worse than they have ever been, and that there are always clever people coming along with refreshing and interesting music if you know where to look for it.

I must confess that I get wary when confronted by a ukulele, I remember the uke-pop overkill of 2015 when no self-respecting popster would be seen without one in public but this, thankfully, feels different. Very different.Take the opening salvo Cogs for example, the pesky little four stringer is in there somewhere but it still sounds like quintessentially English pop music rather than an advert for pineapple topped pizzas. And pop it is, carefully constructed, lyrically driven, thoughtful and rather well done  at that.

I Remember drives on a thudding kick drum beat dressed up with delicate strings and hazy, half-heard harmonies and Your Favourite Place breaks out the understated soul groove.The EP rounds off with Music Manic which is simultaneously the most complex, most interesting and probably least overtly commercial of the quartet. But for me that is where the good stuff is found; fuzzed out guitar, strange and sonorous sonar sounds, the lyrics delivered by half raps, world weary singing and distant radio voices. Slightly weird, wonderfully compelling!

No matter what your tastes in pop music Jordy has it covered, genres are mixed, styles-spliced, pop-divides lept in a single bound. But the greatest thing about this young artist’s opening musical statement is that it is both commercial and cultish. The pop pickers will love its easy ways and the more underground movers and shakers will kill for the bragging rights of being the first to its sonic treasures. Great stuff…hmmm, maybe I’m not so stuck in my ways after all.

*Give me a break, I’ve been waiting to use that joke for over 20 years!

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I guess if this blog is going to pick up any significant numbers I should embrace some of the bigger names that this fair town has offered up over the years. And just as I was thinking about that, serendipitously this popped up. It was posted by Henry Priestman, then a member of The Yachts, later a Christian and these days a member of Ian McNabb’s trusted musical entourage.

Anyway, it will give the readers something to argue about until I make a scathing comment about cover bands or suggest that certain venues aren’t great at advertising their gigs.

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