Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Out of the blue

We interrupt this long term silence to bring a live blog from Bromborough Folk Club at the Bridge Inn in Port Sunlight. We're here as usual for whatever comes up in the mix, which is always interesting, but with more than half an eye a young man called Joseph Little, who has been playing in the area for a few weeks, gaining in popularity and winning his first half hour guest slot in The Ship at Handbridge, Chester on Friday.

His two songs tonight both self penned , "Flowers" is delivered in a powerful and confident voice with a little vibrato at times,  and you feel the emotion whether he is singing quiet or loud. The melodies are his own too and complex, showing a depth of listening and playing. "Replace" has a hypnotic guitar rift for the verses and Joseph attacks his strings when he needs to, not afraid to let the guitar sing out too.  "Now that I've got your attention" he booms out after a short soft line, certainly does the job, his playing and his singing have a dynamic, he understands that there is more to a song than just words and notes.

In between sings he apologetically offers his 6 song  CD for 2 pounds...  Up a quid and with 2 extra songs from last week, those of us they have heard it have been urging him to charge more!

Joseph Little is new to the Folk circuit,  but both he, his brother and his father play in various rock bands so he has got used to playing to an audience. We've enjoyed watching and listening to Joseph develop over the last few weeks and hope to continue to report good things in the future.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

2011-01-25 Ani Difanco at The Lowry, Manchester

First gig of 2011 and here we are at Manchester's striking The Lowry to see Ani Difranco performing at the Quays Theatre - a small horseshoe shaped room all done in bright red with 3 layers of stalls around the edges. It's a hard room, and not the most comfortable either. Ani Difranco seems to attract a good crowd in Manchester, colourful and characterful, we feel almost rebellious being a straight couple in this company which more or less filled the Theatre.

Before we get to Ani though we are introduced to Liz Lawrence - singer, songwriter and guitarist, new to me and hiding behind her long fringe for much of the set, Liz Lawrence played nine of her own songs and held the audience well right through, but first I had to get over her time keeping legs - she seemed often to be marching on the spot, and when this was coupled with her upper body swinging figure-of-eights with a long guitar neck in hold during the up tempo segments, seemed slightly child-like, but represented the music taking full hold and didn't stop the songs being well worth a listen - clear lyrics, confidently and deftly sung over a rhythmic guitar with plenty of colour and variety. There were some strong songs in there - they weren't often introduced so I'm guessing titles, but "Trouble with My Sleeping Heart" and "Funny Old World", "Monday Morning" and "Cards on the Table" all stand out. A touching new piece dedicated to Liz's mother who was in the audience was a sensitive and thoughtful song too.

Ani Difranco is one of a kind. We saw her here a few years back and enjoyed a strong performance in this very theatre - tonight we'd have gladly settled for more of the same, but with no band and only a veritable collection of acoustic guitars on the stage, we were clearly in for something different. Off to a screaming start as the guitar lead pulled over the drinks and towels were put down, Ani set off into her set with "Anticipate" and started her onslaught against her guitar strings right from the off - huge bass string twangs fired off and fingers with heavily reinforced nails raking the higher notes with a major passion- a performance full of "piss and vinegar" as Eric Bibb once borrowed from somebody else. The guitar playing is never straight forward with Ani - and while you could hear her New Orleans home influencing her latest songs, those blues chords were soon being bent and twisted into a new key to fit the sound needed for the song. This effort driven playing, the bending of keys and the wringing of the guitar for that needed sound are all so reminiscent of Neil Young's electric playing, but this is no copycat act, Ani Difranco has her own way and her own mind. Lyrically thrilling, her mind so clearly used to thinking and reasoning, she delivers songs that make you question your own mind, and then a couple more that are so wonderfully tender, and then a comedic number but not without it's own hard centre.

Missing her young daughter and claiming to be not very chatty, we still got a fair bit of talk between songs, and Ani is as fond of the f-word as Gordon Ramsey, but "oh my, fuckety-fuck" was a new one on me, and a new song "If You're Not" had us all laughing with it's punchline "If you're not getting happier as you get older, You're fucking up!"

A great evening then, memorable - not perfect, the sound in the red tin theatre was not the best, levels up and down to try and cope led to rattling speakers and quite a lot of interaction with the "sound guys". You know it's been a good one though when the artist does a whole night without playing any songs that you know (apart from the very last) and none of your favourites, but it hasn't mattered at all.

Gilly found this very useful set list site for anyone who wants the full list:

Friday, November 06, 2009

Earle on Townes

A useful link so I thought I would share it here as well as remember where I left it!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Shrewsbury Folk Festival - Live!

Sat in the comfort of our own home last night we watched Eric Bibb knock the socks of the audience at the Shrewsbury Folk Festival with a belter of a set - we enjoyed curry, rice and chips, wine, coffee, the internet, en suite bathroom, central heating, our own house... yes we watched it on the live video stream - brilliant! Better view, great sound, comfy chairs, no camping - great shows - Eric was on top form - opening up well with "If I don't get well no more" and on into a set of mostly original material. Backed by stand-up bass, drums and electric guitar, Erioc Bibb rocked the night away.

The only criticism was the compere who came on and killed the atmosphere flat when the audience were baying for more - he could have milked it a little longer even if there was a curfew and no time for an encore - no - just a litter announcement...

Anyway tonight it's Show of Hands and then the Dhol Foundation - should be worth tuning in. We will be - chile tonight!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Crosby Stills & Nash - MEN Arena Manchester

Stood listening to "Wooden Ships" - the first CSN encore song at Manchester gave me a spiritual line directly back to Woodstock - these 3 guys are still at it, still enjoying it and still well able to deliver. Sadly the sound at the MEN Arena was not delivering and the whole thing was a little flat. Early on as the trio took us through some semi-acoustic songs, there was a dire hiss from the p.a. throughout and the guitar sounds were tinny at best - a great shame - and a disgrace really when the tickets are so expensive and the music is so good - these days there is no excuse for low quality sound.

There were some highlights - a Crosby - Nash duo was particularly good, and the one-off (because Manchester is his home town) Cold Rain was very well received by the audience. Stephen Stills was given due adoration for his guitar solos - one notable series of exchanges with the organ was particularly good - of it's day if you must, but I enjoyed it!

Most of the greats were there, and they slipped in Dylan's "North Country Fair" too - David Crosby was still reeling from Nash's attempts at explaining cricket (The Ashes having just started) but didn't let it detract from the music, Graham Nash was on top form, his singing obviously coming right through his body before it got out of his mouth - Stephen Stills not sounding quite so harmonious these days, but still fiery and still making those guitars howl.

Most of all we went to pay homage to a great trio - so job done there - shame about the sound - they could learn a trick or two from the 4th member of their other band who has recently proved that stadiums can sound good whether you play loud or quiet.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A short word about... Laura Marling - Nottingham

Laura Marling was picked to support Neil Young again - after a slot at last year's Hop Farm in the rain - Laura seemed a bit shy and nervous opening with a few old songs - "My Manic","Ghosts", a little bit uneven in her delivery perhaps, but she settled down and Laura and her band delivered a really confident set - it was like listening to Dolly Parton for one of the songs - such a strong voice - sorry I don't have the set list.

I believe that her songs will out - Laura was robbed of the Mercury Music Prize - her debut album is a work of genius and all the more so for her age - if she were to stay on this plane she will be superb as she matures further who knows what heights she may reach?

Thursday, June 25, 2009


From the moment Neil shambled onto the stage and hooked on Big Black, to the last dying cries of pain from the tortured remains of the same instrument, propped theatrically against his amps several hours later, we witnessed a “real treat” of a performance from a man on top of his form.

A deep groan emerged from the sound system as Neil led off with “Hey Hey, My My” everything cranked up to make sure the audience was fully alert to what was coming – he had apparently been on great form a few days earlier and now it was our turn to get a full dose of medicine from Mr Young. You will have read elsewhere about Neil shaking the guitar to death and stomping around the stage, and there was plenty of that, but tonight it seemed more agitated and more urgent than usual. Things may not have been as angry as first impressions may have suggested though as the many close ups of Young's now jowly face caught several knowing smiles between the trademark scowls and grimaces, this will be one they'll remember he may have been thinking.

If he was then he would be right- the set list reading like the track listing from the “Archives” with only one track from the recent few albums at all was certainly going to please and a near neighbour in the crowd raised his palms out and up in praise when Neil played “Words” on his great white Gretsch – who could have predicted that – many other old favourites were given an airing - “Are you ready for the country?”, “Burned” - a romp though this marvelous Buffalo Springfield classic which is having it's first live airing since 1966!

A few of the “regulars” were dished out on acoustic guitar, but there was none of that sitting in a circle of instruments and wandering around picking one up and lilting a song, this was all full on stuff. “Pocahontas” was much more electric and forceful than previously and “Rocking in the Free World” was even more of a stadium pleaser than ever with some 4 or 5 false endings and a great deal of playing to the crowd - “Cinnamon Girl” too featured a deliberate bout of showboating – Neil repeating the last chords sequences couple of times, waving triumphantly to each section of the crowd who naturally responded with vigour. I felt at the time that these were uncharacteristic actions for Young, not usually given to such gestures – and with such a powerful performance I wonder if we have witnessed something of milestone in touring terms? Was Neil bidding us farewell? Let's hope not.

A thumping version of “Down by The River” made it into something of a “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere” tour – nearly all my favourite album getting an airing. Impressed? I most certainly was – even the sound was good enough, better than expected perhaps for a concrete stadium. Highlights? So many musical ones, but Pegi Young sipping on a mug of tea while Neil launched into one of his grunge-laden thrashes in “Hey Hey” was a treasure. Banjo toting Larry Cragg on “Old Man” was another.

We're not going to Hyde Park or Glastonbury so that's it for us this tour, but as Gilly rightly put it – we saw Neil Young – Unleashed in Nottingham.

Get the latest news and so much more: