Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Live Review - Willy Mason

Written for SHUlife
The Harley, Sheffield, August 23

It was in 2004 that Willy Mason released his superb debut album ‘Where The Humans Eat’.

Back then, fresh faced at 19, people were comparing his drawl to that of a young Bob Dylan. With social observations and off the cuff poetry encased in low key melody and acoustic guitars, ‘Where The Humans Eat’ was arresting in the same way that the folk legend had set his store in the Sixties. Seven years later, with only ‘If The Ocean Gets Rough’ (2007) following his debut, he’s back on the road, clad with guitar, practice amp and trolley, performing his songs at their bare bones.

A pin drop can be heard for ‘Gotta Keep Moving’, ‘All You Can Do’ and ‘Oxygen’ while ‘So Long’ is stripped back from the chirpy folk pop heard on record, with Mason sounding more weather beaten than ever. The crowd sing back the chorus of ‘We Can Be Strong’, causing a slight look of shock to wash over 26 year-olds face, and call out requests, to which the New Yorker duly accepts – even if he can’t remember the words.

Tonight, Willy Mason shows the importance of intimate gigs like this. While others spend their night with binoculars trying to squint a glimpse of spectacular, he provides his own kind of spectacle, and he doesn’t even need a set list.

Monday, 15 August 2011

New Street Adventure

Stunning stuff from a stripped down New Street Adventure.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Songs on the Stereo

Photograph by Tom Walton

1. Josh T Pearson - Woman When I've Raised Hell


2. Sarah Mac - Everyone Knows

3. The Lost Brothers - City Of The Rose


4. Elephant Keys - Whatever Gets You To Sleep At Night

5. Crystal Fighters - Plage


Carl Woodford

Photograph - Tom Walton

I've written enough about this singer/songwriter over the last couple of years so anyone who reads this blog will probably know who he is. If you don't - he's one of the country's top guitar players so check these videos out and prepare to enjoy.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Ysabelle Wombwell – Ysabelle Wombwell


Released August 15

Warren Records

After supporting the Magic Numbers and Noah and the Whale, Isabelle Wombwell has been making sure she’s getting close to the mainstream radar this year.

The singer/songwriter from Hull is becoming known for carving out ruthlessly emotional live solo performances, as shown on her superb BBC Introducing session for BBC Humberside. But despite this, her eponymous debut album only partly manages to translate the folk brilliance she has promised into a mixed bag.

Although opening tracks, ‘The Story Of Your Life’ and ‘Goodbye My Cynical Friend’, twinkle in the right places, they scrape the bottom of the pop barrel with predictable melodies that stick rigidly to the formula and head up the creek without a paddle.

Her aching heart and dulcet vocals are at their best when she sheds her band, The Reigning Geese, for song majorities and ‘Falling’ is incandescent in its delivery as Wombwell croons: “Falling, the stairway from her is here. You’re trapped in your sin that seduces you in and now you’re falling down.”

‘Greasy Hands’ has groove but the bluesy acoustic guitar becomes drowned in organs and drums as it loses direction, and this is the point - while this debut album isn’t terrible, it’s terrified to see the outskirts of the boundaries which it has set itself and wallows where it feels comfortable, not allowing Wombwell to be as good as she could be. 

Too often does the intimacy get blown out of the water to be replaced by chirpy drum beats (‘Borrowed Time’/’I’ve Changed’) and too often is Wombwell not left to her own devices, which is where she shines her brightest. 

That said, there’s enough here to suggest that when Ysabelle Wombwell opts out of the middle lane, something quite special could happen.

Tramlines 2011

My contributions for SHUlife's coverage of Sheffield's free for all festival.

Dead Sons/The Crookes/The Futureheads/Ash – Main Stage, Sunday
As Dead Sons took to the stage early on Sunday afternoon a thundering bass took over the main arena. They’re another band that supported Arctic Monkeys at the beginning of June, though they sound more the part and despite rarely looking up through heavy haircuts, their jagged riffage set the scene for the afternoon.
Clad in trademark snappy suits and shades, The Crookes bounced across the main stage, throwing themselves at the task in hand at full throttle. As they came to end of their set they pulled ‘Backstreet Lovers’ and ‘Yes, Yes, We Are Magicians’ out of their ever growing back catalogue to rile up the crowd who vociferously asked for more.
The Futureheads don’t need any introductions. They opened with ‘The Beginning Of The Twist’ (the biggest hit played so far today) to the crowd’s jubilation before hammering through ‘Decent Days And Nights’ and finishing with ‘Hounds Of Love’ with their trademark Geordie hollers. 
The Lost Brothers – The Wick At Both Ends, Sunday
It was a quiet affair in The Wick At Both Ends with folk duo, The Lost Brothers, keeping things unplugged and encapsulating their awed audience. It was as intimate as it gets with even the faintest hint of chat getting shushed down immediately as their immaculate harmonies drifted from heart-rending to sublime.
Elephant Keys – Frog and Parrot, Sunday
Things were a little bit more hectic in the Frog and Parrot as Elephant Keys let loose their brash rock n roll to a packed house. Catchy melodies, riffs and licks stole the show as energetic front man Phil Goodwin threw himself between monitor tops and his microphone before they left the stage with puddles of sweat and smouldering guitars. 
Jersey Budd and Josh T Pearson – Leadmill, Sunday
It’s a shame that Jersey Budd had to battle the crowd for his husky voice to be heard. Shedding his band and keeping things low key, the singer/songwriter from Leicester showcased songs from his debut album ‘Wonderland’ with sincerity and personal triumph.
“You guys weren’t very nice to Jersey, y’all going to be nice to me?” Are the first words Josh T Pearson uttered as he brought the curtains down on Leadmill’s weekend. He held the crowd from conversation as he chatted idly for five minutes, laughing and joking, before playing songs from ‘Last Of The Country Gentlemen’ with a gruelling sadness.
It was his between song banter that saved his audience leaving the show as tear filled wrecks with the emotional songsmithery  touching nerves in each corner of the room with tales of alcoholism, infidelity and self loathing. A fitting end
Carl Woodford – The Folk Forest, Saturday
Carl Woodford’s reputation as one of Sheffield’s finest folk stars is growing, and so is his crowd. His finger picking croonery and tales of heartbreak build up to the 31 year-olds curtain closer, ‘Coloured Walls’, in which he fashions his well known strum n’ drum technique with an unmerciful attack on his guitar. 
Sarah Mac – The Library Theatre, Saturday
When SHUlife picked Sarah Mac singer as one of our Ones To Watch back in November last year, it looks like we may have been on to something.
As The Library Theatre filled up and Sarah Mac took to the stage there was a hushed silence before she swung into her jazz blues, twisted with a hit of pop.
“Have you been having a good time? I think it has been proper mint,” said the singer before introducing ‘Sessions’ which was delivered with smiles before her minimal band of drums and bass left her to complete the set with ‘Everyone Knows’, leaving everyone with a tear in their eye. 
The Black Flowers/The Tivoli/The Book Club/The Monicans/Mabel Love – Leadmill, Saturday
It’s a celebration of Sheffield’s finest down at the Leadmill and SHUlife’s November 2010 Band Of The Month, Black Flowers, jangled through some of their newer offerings to a packed Steel Stage.
The rattle and shake in newer songs such as ‘Lies’ show they still know how to write a tune but they’ve softened their edge, and they’re suffering for it.
The Tivoli have been a main stay on the Sheffield music scene for over five years now and as Lee McMahon’s throat shredding vocals ripped through the crowd they showed what a tight unit they’ve become. Despite this, their powerful guitar driven tunes provoked relatively little crowd response, unusual at a Tivoli gig.
The main stage was rammed to see Exposed Magazine’s voted Best Band, Book Club, but despite the anticipation, it was slow starting as they introduced tracks from their new album until Carnell said: “Alright then, we’ve changed the set a bit,” and they deliver ‘Somebody’s Daughter’ and ‘Mr K’ with a perfection that goads the crowd into frenzy.
The grunge sensibilities of The Monicans went down well on the Steel Stage as their their loyal faithful got their dancing shoes on at the front while the band dripped sweat through their screeching guitars.
After their support slot with Arctic Monkeys and growing reputation as an impressive live band, Mabel Love have been gaining admirers. It didn’t show though and what usually spits charming indie, stumbled and stuttered towards the night end.
Futures and Twin Atlantic – Leadmill, Friday
Emo scenesters Futures entered the fray with a their upbeat pop rock and a need to be noticed.  As they ran through crowd favourite, ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’,  things get going but it was noticeable the side parted haircuts and teen romancers were waiting for Twin Atlantic when singer Ant West piped up: “I’ve heard there’s a football team here called Sheffield Wednesday? They must be the greatest team in the world.”
It’s little wonder that when the Glaswegian quartet, Twin Atlantic,  do stroll on there’s an air of anticipation. After tour supports with Blink 182 and Biffy Clyro recently completed the publicity seems to have done the trick and it’s in no time that the crowd had their hands in the air as they ran through tracks from their recent album, ‘Free’, with guile filled licks and fizzing energy.
The Blackbirds and Lewis Floyd Henry – Frog and Parrott, Friday
This small pub on Division Street was splitting at the seams and as The Blackbirds (a concoction of Cut Your Wings and Shot Dead) filled the air with feral blues there’s little wonder people were craning their necks just try and get a look at them. It was loud and unforgiving as they played a mix of their own songs and covers with a visceral edge.
As Lewis Floyd Henry stepped on stage and began to unleash his blues psychedelia, things began to spice up. He’s best known for his raucous busking sessions on the capital’s street corners but the one man show hit another notch as people stood as close as a foot away when the venue closed in on over capacity.
After his debut album, ‘One Man And His 30w Pram’ hit critical acclaim with BBC 6 Music and Mojo, the London based singer already has a cult following that has spread to the Steel City.