The Faces – Hurtwood Polo Club

It took a while for it to happen. But it did
Hurtwood Polo Club, 05/09/2015




They’ve had their knockers. And it would be all too easy to poke fun at this day. Certainly, finding oneself wandering the fields of a Polo club surrounded by an assortment of Clarksons, Partridges, Patsies, Edinas, Fred Perry-adorned Phil Mitchells and people you largely suspect of possessing somewhat anathematic opinions makes for an experience bordering on the surreal. Likewise, the numerous mingling Rod-a-likes, lending the uncanny air of attending some diabolical theme park (“Jurassic”, of course), one of whom is glimpsed taking a call on his mobile phone through the mesh partitioning the VIP enclosure from we mere mortals, his barnet, tangerine complexion, tasteless attire and general demeanour momentarily convincing, but later sighted sans-mirrored sunglasses with a look of shame written on his mug akin to that of being caught in flagrante in the midst of inopportune climatic conditions.

Meanwhile, Chris Jagger is on stage, all purple lamé and Stringfellow mullet; Mollie Marriott sings her old dad’s ‘Aftergow (Of Your Love)’, having inherited his chin, if not quite his pipes; the house band for the occasion are led by Jim Cregan of Blossom Toes fame, brow perpetually furrowed as he studiously regards the music stand before him, clearly enjoying himself more than at any other time since his Katie Melua heyday as he takes his celebrated lead on Steve Harley’s ‘Come Up And See Me (Make Me Smile)’; Paul Carrack sashays across the length of the stage to a large table upon which an exceedingly refreshed Annie Nightingale is setting up decks, where he mimes a “scratching” motion and is rewarded with the kind of steely glare that got King Polydectes permanently stoned. This Havershamesque apparition’s choice selection of MP3s burned to compact disc includes gun-jumping “spins” of ‘Cindy Incidentally’, ‘Had Me A Real Good Time’ plus ‘Rocks’ by Primal Scream, the latter rendered even less enjoyable than usual by devastating infrasonic frequencies which, judging by the news to the nose, may have had a distinctly “brown” resonance with some audience members. “ROD LOVES THIS!” she exclaims. Perhaps Rod has a scat fetish? Either that, or sturdy bowels for a man of his vintage. Read more The Faces – Hurtwood Polo Club


Jessica Pratt – London, Bush Hall

Tim Presley discovery shines.
London Bush Hall, 08/09/2015

In the illustrious settings of this prestigious venue – “So this used to be a bingo hall? That’s cool” – Jessica Pratt draws the crowd into the palm of her hand, tapping into the intimate surroundings and grandeur with her world of dimly lit, chanson-like charm. After an initial technical difficulty, the performance starts with ‘Wrong Hand’, the opening statement on her latest album On Your Own Love Again. Her voice tonight is sparkling yet lugubrious – like the sigh at the end of a twilight night when considering a day’s passing. This is despite Pratt later admitting that “…I’m a little bit ill right now”. ‘Greycedes’ also has a similar quality; the aural equivalent of staring into the middle distance whilst in love and trying to ignore the inevitable parting to follow.

What’s clear tonight is that Pratt’s songs have a tranquil and entrancing presence that is significantly enhanced here beyond their recorded counterparts. The lack of harmony vocals in the live setting only serves to reinforce her main vocal line, giving greater significance to the lyrics, whilst the interplay between Pratt and accompanying guitarist Cyrus Gengras revels in the fragility of the songs themselves. ‘Games That I Play’ gleams and bewitches the audience whilst ‘Jacquelyn in the Background’ retains the slight uplift in pitch at the tail end that, on the album, gives the impression that someone’s accidentally nudged the varispeed controls on the recording console. ‘Back, Baby’ has the crowd indulge in an impromptu singing of the opening line with Pratt (‘Sometimes I Pray For The Rain’).

An exquisite reading of the song that started it all ‘Night Faces’ (from her initial demo-drawn debut) still feels like a long lost response to David Crosby and the Laurel Canyon community. ‘Strange Melody’ is another highlight; a rumination on truth and loss only heightened by the sparse instrumentation and spectral quality of its rendition here.

An encore of ‘Titles Under Pressure’ and ‘Fortuna’ brings the performance to a close and it’s hard to argue with Pratt’s own assessment of her visit; “I’ve played here (London) three times and it’s always been special.”

Marc Le Breton


Sufjan Stevens – Colston Hall , Bristol

A dazzling show from the man of many styles
Bristol Colston Hall, 06/09/2015


What a show!

Baroque , psychedelia, folk , electronica , indie , it had everything.

Commencing with a complete performance of his latest highly regards album Carrie And Lowell  Sufjan was supported by a band of multi instrumentalists, including female vocalist Dawn Landes. The album – a personal reflection of memories , experiences and relationships – deserved and obtained undivided attention, holding the audience spellbound. The beautifully crafted fragile songs, tackling sorrow and grief, were executed and delivered against a backdrop of home movies making the songs even more poignant if they could possibly be so.

The audience listened in silence to a masterclass of what you would term a “suite” of music rather than a set of songs. Sufjan is undoubtedly the Brian Wilson of a modern age.

It was only after the completion of Carrie And Lowell that he then took the opportunity to converse with the audience, seeming genuinely humbled by the deserved standing ovations and rapturous applause from all corners of the hall.

Accompanied by a fantastic group of musicians and the haunting vocals of Dawn Landes he then preceded to cover a variety of gorgeous songs from various albums including ‘The Age Of Adz’, ‘All Delighted People’ and in his words “My Murder Ballad, ‘John Wayne Gacy , JR’ from Illinois.”

After another standing ovation and encore a wonderful show came to an end, leaving you feeling you had been a part of something very special.

Mark Roberts


Psychedelia & Other Colours Book Launch


Rob Chapman author of Psychedelia And Other Colours in conversation at Rough Trade East. ASHLEY NORRIS attends.

So much has been written about the great British psychedelic trip of the late ’60s, yet in a way so little too. For most of it focuses on the main protagonists – The Beatles, Stones and Floyd – and doesn’t really attempt to answer other questions, such as why a thousand local beat bands jettisoned their club soul dance sounds and suddenly started singing strange songs about gnomes.

The accepted wisdom has always been that widespread use of LSD heralded an era of intense musical experimentation. Yet could it be that those bands were simply aping their heroes and hadn’t ingested anything much stronger than a barrel or two of Watneys Ale? Read more Psychedelia & Other Colours Book Launch


Ryley Walker – Hoxton Square Bar And Kitchen, London

US Jazz/folk young gun stuns London crowd
Hoxton Bar & Grill,  02/09/15


imageThe autumnal rain that precedes Ryley Walker’s set is apt tonight. There’s a joyful, freeing feel to his latest work mixed with a creeping sense of foreboding dark clouds across the horizon. His music is a perfect gumbo of West Coast sun dappled psych-folk mixed with free jazz inflections and a lyrical content that, not unlike the Soho Folk boom of the mid-late ’60s aims to reflect the conflicting nature of everyday life.

However, don’t be mistaken in thinking it’s simply a re-enactment of a long lost vibe. In the live context, Walker’s compositions are a platform for things to go well beyond the confines of any Nick Drakeisms that plague a musician who utilises the fingerpicking acoustic guitar style as their primary weapon. His original material has been growing in stature amongst those in the know, and there’s an anticipation to see how the songs have evolved during the touring process.

A notorious vinyl fanatic — for proof, see his involvement in the recently reissued primitive guitar gem on Tompkins Square; John Hulbert’s Opus III – at 26, Walker has grown up during the emergence of a truly creative period in US-independent guitar-based music. He is continually discovering (via John Fahey and Sonny Sharrock, amongst others) the sources and more extreme ends of what his instrument can do and emphatically displays his capabilities during a spellbinding set.

Perhaps the difficulty to date has been that what he does live hasn’t quite come across in the recorded work of his initial two long players but, judging by set-opener ‘Sullen Mind’ which draws the crowd into silence, it feels like it’s only a matter of time before it will. Taking the bold move of playing this new song to open with shows the sense of fearlessness he has. ‘On The Banks Of The Old Kishwaukee’ follows; along with the title track of his second LP, ‘Primrose Green’. However, tonight they’re transmogrified into paeans that transcend the original recordings by a country mile. The former feels like it starts a little further up the river, evoking the sights and sounds of the Mississippi to a small, packed room on the other side of the world, whilst the latter (“We’re playing the hits tonight!” he jokes) takes a sideways lurch into a shuffling old school, almost Doors-like groove for several minutes before the introductory riff is played and becomes recognisable from the record’s languorous take.

There are no slouches in his band either; Brian J Sulpizio’s melodious yet fierce guitar work complements the more ferocious elements of Walker’s frenzied strumming throughout, whilst also equally able to provide a lilting tone to ‘Primrose Green’. The sound is anchored by Anton Hatwich’s Double Bass and Ståle Liavik Solberg’s drums, providing dexterous fingerwork and shimmering cymbal action respectively on another as yet unreleased song, ‘Funny Thing She Said’. Keyboardist Ben Boye, who has been Walker’s foil in the musical direction for many of the set’s wilder moments, draws out unearthly sounds in the song’s beginning, even going so far as to use a set of house keys on the keys(!) which gives an ethereal quality to the proceedings.

Despite it being early days, Walker is already being heralded in some circles for taking on the mantle of psych-folk. But, it’s not where he’s at, it’s where he will take it that makes him so thrilling. It’s also telling that only one song (‘Clear The Sky’) is played from his 18-month old debut, All Kinds Of You. The sound Walker is developing continues to captivate. With a voice that veers between mellifluous and delicate – as displayed during a beatific solo spot covering Tim Hardin’s ‘If I Were A Carpenter’ and John Martyn’s take on ‘Cocain’ – to the guttural, primal howls and yelps on ‘Summer Dress’, his intensity is mesmerising, whilst the band can only do their damnedest to keep the train on the track. No matter how seemingly reckless it gets, the beauty of it all is that Walker doesn’t know any more than the lucky few who attended this event, what’s going to happen next.

Bowing out with a sublime, gossamer-light cover of Van Morrison’s ‘Fair Play’, there’s no doubting the crowd’s rapt appreciation, having witnessed a near flawless set of old, new and borrowed tunes.

It’s great to see him at this emerging stage of his career. Watch Ryley Walker go – it’s going to be a gloriously bumpy ride!

​​​​​​​​​​M Le Breton