Tag: blues

Record review: Greg Coulson

GREG COULSON What’s New [self-released] Coulson is still only in his mid-20s but he’s crammed an awful lot in so far. He joined local Northampton band Danny Connors and The…

GREG COULSON
What’s New [self-released]

Coulson is still only in his mid-20s but he’s crammed an awful lot in so far. He joined local Northampton band Danny Connors and The Ladders at just 17, he hooked up with Two-Tone legends The Selecter at 19 – and stayed there for five years. He’s toured America, playing both South by SouthWest and Coachella festivals, and he even did a stint in a Burt Bacharach-themed West End show. Even now he’s gone solo, he is still called upon by The Blockheads to fill in on guitar when needed. Talk about paying your dues off early…

Finally the multi-instrumentalist has fulfilled the dream of a debut album. It’s full of vim and blues-funk energy, as demonstrated on the jive-tastic opener ’10/10′ [Adam Gammage’s drums propelling the whole thing to its peaks]. Follow-up ‘Girls’ sees the Flat Pack Horn Co give it some Daptones swing, plus Coulson lets loose on his Hammond to great, Stevie Winwood-esque effect. The pop melody vocal is so spot on it could give most of the Stax singles a run for their money.

‘Stitch Me Up’, a co-write with Danny Connors, is their idea of Stevie Wonder if he roamed The Mounts. The rhythm playing is as steady as a metronomic beat, though the feel of the lead instruments is a little on the wild side. Coulson runs through a ’60s reggae-styled Farfisa solo in the middle – completely changing the feel of things for a minute – before relaunching into that soulful groove chorus. The words are a treat too. It’s a seriously impressive five minutes, and should be the first thing you listen to on the album if in a rush. ‘Love Nest’ is the only really cheesy moment on the album, the ’80s blues-rock sound a tad too close to function band for comfort [nice guitar lines though]. All is quickly forgiven though as the title track roars into view, with it’s modern rock’n’roll feel [Jack White, Black Keys] and great call-and-response chorus. The fuzzy guitar from Staurt Dixon practically launches out of the speakers, such is his enthusiasm. And New Boots isn’t sure if there’s a word that could sufficiently sum up the outrageous Hammond solo.

The second half of the album is more of the same, and the quality never lets up. ‘Someone To Be There’ swaggers over the horizon with a great [or should that be Wonder-ful] soaring chorus in it’s back pocket. ‘End Of The Line’ introduces Coulson’s ability with a Michael Jackson-mimicked falsetto. It’s perhaps the most emotional song on the album, a plea to return to the past glories of love. Indeed it’s a song that seems to effortlessly amalgamate the last 50 years of blues rock into a coherent whole; and that’s no mean feat. ‘Ran Out And Ready’ is a slice of staccato Hammond-funk that would have been issued in 1968 on some obscure mid-Western label. In other words, very special. Great percussion movements on this too, muso fans.

Closer ‘Sick Note’ returns the horns to the fore, and is a fun-if-familiar number to sign off with. And there you have it: 40 minutes of blues-funk bliss from one of its newer exponents. Greg takes on the often unfashionable R&B sound and makes an album with personality, finesse and fine songs. We should all get behind him.

Phil Istine

What’s New? is out now on CD and the usual downloading/streaming sites

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Record review: Lew Bear ‘Love Light Dark And Death’

LEW BEAR Love Light Dark and Death [self-released] If there’s one thing that’s important to Daventry-based singer-songwriter Lew Bear, it’s returning to nature as often as he can. So much…

LEW BEAR
Love Light Dark and Death [self-released]

If there’s one thing that’s important to Daventry-based singer-songwriter Lew Bear, it’s returning to nature as often as he can. So much so, in fact, that several of his previous albums have been recorded in fields, or by streams. But now, with fifth album Love Light Dark And Death, he has decided that it’s time to return back to the studio.

Opening track ‘Devil You Know’ introduces the mood of the whole album with bouncing, crisp guitar strumming, while Lew Bear’s warm vocals are not too different to the cosy blanket you wrapped yourself in as a kid.

‘Going Home’ captures summer in a song, with lyrics such as “I won’t be there alone/in my mind/when I’m going home” bringing imagery of sunny days spent with your closest friends, whilst ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ hits upon a darker target. With acoustic guitars that sound foreboding and ominous, the song is eerily reminiscent of ’40s blues.

Songs like ‘The Wanderer’ and ‘Follow The River’ showcase Lew Bear’s jazz-styled vocals in a lower key, making him sound gloomy and encompassing. The guitar riffs also follow suit with simplistic strumming that boosts the singer’s voice to an even more powerful level. ‘Oh Death’, on the other hand, is deep and haunting, with echoing gongs punctuating the first hand story, from death’s point of view, of what happens to us when we reach the end.

‘Return To The Sea’ and ‘The End Is Never Near’ are album’s highlights, with their slow, calming melodies and soft vocals. ‘Return To The Sea’ is, musically, the perfect mixture of acoustic guitar and poetic lyrics, whilst ‘The End Is Never Near’ documents a love story to last for the ages.

Overall, Love Light Dark And Death is an album that couples folk music with a modern twist, resulting in a clear-cut sound that is neither dated nor out of place within the genre. Lew Bear has talent by the bucket load and he isn’t afraid to use it. This record is unique and warm, with a folk-blues sound that fits perfectly for those sunny Sunday afternoons spent in the countryside with the people you love.

Lucy Wenham

Love Light Dark and Death is out now for streaming, download or on CD

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Record review: Tom Rose & The Heathen Orchestra

TOM ROSE & THE HEATHEN ORCHESTRA TOM ROSE & THE HEATHEN ORCHESTRA [self-released] Orchestral arranger. Bookseller. Gravedigger. As careers go that’s not a bad palette of experience from which to…

TOM ROSE & THE HEATHEN ORCHESTRA
TOM ROSE & THE HEATHEN ORCHESTRA [self-released]

Orchestral arranger. Bookseller. Gravedigger. As careers go that’s not a bad palette of experience from which to paint your tales of humankind. And Tom Rose has done them all. As leader of this Northamptonshire five-piece twisted blues ensemble he’s learnt to weave a consistently absorbing narrative on the freaks and weirdos that walk amongst us.

This twelve-tracker was recorded live last October at Parlour Studios near Kettering, and displays some Hammond-heavy dark forbodings that bring to mind some of the greats of the nu-blues genre: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Tom Waits, Mark Lanegan, Captain Beefheart, The Pogues, with various nods to the original US bluesmen of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. The opening track ‘Keep Your Demons’ is the heaviest thing on here, and is reminiscent of noughties blues trio the 22-20s; and before them, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. It feels like the sky will cave in over it’s three minute duration, which is probably the point. ‘Dance To Hell’ keeps the sweaty intensity up, coming across like a potent rockabilly version of ‘Red Right Hand’. It’s on this song that Roses’ preacher sensibilities come to the fore, with references to ‘demons’ and ‘hell’; the morality theme is later returned to on ‘Bible Morals’. If you’re going to tell stories you might as well make them biblical in scale…

On ‘Clay On Wood’ the voodoo punk spirit that has inhabited Jim Jones for thirty-odd years – most recently with his Righteous Mind – comes to mind. The band is really smoking on this number, cutting loose with joyous abandon. ‘Maggots’ slows things down a bit, bringing some smooth 60s atmospherics to rival Dylan with The Hawks, or perhaps The Doors. The grotesque nature of the song that Rose is chronicling is one to listen in sharply for, you get your just rewards. The album continues in a similar vein over its second half: ‘Falling Over’ and ‘All Of You People’ add some nifty guitar licks to enliven, ‘Garden Designs’ decides to add profanity to the spicy mix, and there’s some excellent garage-punk dynamics on ‘Trouble’s What You Got’.

This record is a spirited success and one you can’t ignore, for it has you by the throat from those opening notes. It has a timeless quality too – it could conceivably be ignored in 2018, only to be hailed as a minor classic by future scribes. One thing is for sure, however; we are much better off having it in our lives than not. Praise be.

Phil Istine

Tom Rose & The Heathen Orchestra is out now

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