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Sunday For Sammy 2012

Over two and a half hours of entertainment and boy, do those Geordie lads and lasses know how to throw a party! Conceived to honour the memory of Sammy Johnson (Jimmy Nail’s mate “Stick” in Spender) in 2000 this bi-annual concert always manages to turn out the goods. The line-up features a North-East cornucopia of the music, stage and film world including Billy Mitchell, Ray Laidlaw, Kevin Whately, Tim Healy, Chris Fairbank, Chelsea Halfpenny, Denise Welch, Brendan Healy…sharp intake of breath….well, I could go on but the list would take up all of this review. The most notable additions for me this year were the impressive talents of comedian Josh Daniels (definitely one to look out for) and Nathalie Stern (originally from Sweden but now based in Newcastle) and her looped acoustic guitar and sultry vocals. Of course with members of the cast of “Auf Wiedersehen Pet” on stage writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais contributed the script of “Camelot…Not” with plenty of in-jokes and banter to keep the laughter level high whilst surprise guest Joe McElderry gave a performance of the classic “Big River”. It was also nice to see Billy Mitchell singing a duet with himself (courtesy of some back projected trickery) on Randy Newman’s “I’m Different” and leading a rousing finale with “Run For Home”. If I’ve whetted your appetite enough to purchase a copy of the DVD available from the link below then you’ll be pleased to know that you’ll also be contributing 75% of that amount to the Sunday For Sammy Trust. Finally…a bit of trivia for fans of Jez Lowe…the Camelot sketch features a cameo by Mike Neville as famously featured in Lowe’s song “Mike Neville Said It (So it Must Be True)”.


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Syd Arthur – On An On

Syd Arthur, a quartet of Canterbury-based devotees of sound immersed in the simple pleasures of songwriting, performance and exploratory musical interplay, will release their debut album On An On this July 2nd.

Greatly inspired by the sonic pioneers of the late 60s and early 70s, they have patiently learned how to engineer, produce and mix themselves, using an innovative hybrid of analogue and digital techniques. Naturally, in 2009, Wicker Studios, their own studio space was created, followed by their record label, Dawn Chorus Recording Company. Syd Arthur may revel in the music of decades long past but, as psychedelic rock goes, they match the hallucinogenic sounds of modern contemporaries like Wolf People, Black Mountain, Tame Impala, even Making Dens era Mystery Jets – with imaginative, whimsically sweet, melodies.

When the band released early tracks in 2010 (on their Moving World EP) they were swiftly picked up by The Guardian and included in their Band of The Day feature. Here, on their debut album proper, they seamlessly mix bucolic, retro reveries, devastating blasts of precision controlled riffing, sweeping folk, fleet-fingered mandolin work and a musical vocabulary that’s as fluently conversant with world music as it is the time signature twists of Soft Machine. That these influences are successfully integrated into their songs rather than merely grafted on as stylistic affections says a lot about the band’s desire to hone their craft. And hone it they very much have on debut album On An On.

Building upon the themes of the live studio interplay explored on previous releases and their live set, On An On finds the band in fine form, with the 8 minute live work out of Paradise Lost being performed live in the studio as an ensemble. Due care was taken to try new approaches, resulting in more layered soundscapes as in Moving World and Edge of the Earth. New instruments and textures are given a chance to shine in tracks like Dorothy where swirling keys take on an integral role, and the continued use of Raven Bush’s string compositions are also furthered on tracks such as First Difference. Lyrically, the poetry, honesty and mystique of Liam Magill’s vocals have been brought to the forefront, as he muses on life and draws on imagery from the dream-world.

Syd Arthur’s intricate, high-energy live sets, which to date include Glastonbury and Secret Garden slots, have resulted in a large following emerging – one that is also burgeoning in Europe as they continue to pick up tours in France, Belgium, The Netherlands and most recently Italy. This is an accomplished live band.

With the benefit of an extra 40 years of popular music culture, WOMAD festivals and the entire world’s musical output at their fingertips, the Psychedelic genre no longer sits, gathering dust, in the decades gone by. Syd Arthur embrace its origins, lodge their feet in the present, and hold up a triumphant head, pointed firmly at the future.

‘Syd Arthur are sons and heirs of those Canterbury musicians who did sometimes whimsical, sometimes intense things with psychedelic and progressive rock’ The Guardian

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Eve Selis Releases FAMILY TREE

To support the UK release of FAMILY TREE, Eve Selis and her full band will be touring the UK during June and July 2012. Venues include The Met in Bury, The Sage in Gateshead and Norwich Arts Centre. Eve and the band will also be playing at the prestigious Maverick Festival in Suffolk and also at the Americana International Festival at Newark County Showground. For the full list of tour dates please see the attached document.

“Eve is a deeply creative, caring artist who gives everything to her craft. As a live performer she is awesomely powerful, as a recording artist she is both sensitive and strong. I love her spirit and I love her music. She deserves to shine.” Bob Harris-BBC Radio2

As winner of 7 San Diego Music Awards in Americana and Adult Alternative, Eve Selis is no stranger to Roots music. Her newest CD FAMILY TREE features 14 sturdy tracks drawn from the dark, rich soil of American music. From the swamp-rock of Rubber and Glue to the plaintive country heartbreaker Don’t You Feel Lonesome to Leonard Cohen’s majestic masterpiece Hallelujah, Selis and her band dug deep to create a towering opus of interconnected musical branches, all dripping with Selis’s indelible “honey chipotle” voice.

“This CD sums it all up for me,” Selis explains. “I got to explore all the different styles of music I love; I got to co-write with all my favorite songwriters (Marc Intravaia, Kim McLean, Calman Hart, Rich Wiley, Doug Crider); I got to sing wonderful songs about the things that mean the most to me — loss and love, sadness and joy, hardship and triumph, faith and family; I got to record with the best band in San Diego, with the best studio team I’ve ever worked with…I couldn’t be happier about this CD.

FAMILY TREE was recorded at San Diego’s premiere recording facility, Big Fish Studio in Encinitas, under the guidance of Grammy® winning producer, Steve Churchyard. Recording “old school” to 2-inch analog tape, Churchyard captured the warmth of Selis’s unique style, both explosive and tender, allowing him to recreate the natural sound of her live performance. Musical partner, Marc “Twang” Intravaia remarked: “…we hadn’t recorded to tape in 20 years.”

After final takes, the tracks were then brought into the digital world by transferring them to ProTools on a Mac for overdubs, where Churchyard took advantage of all the latest digital tools to create a 21st-century record that sounds like it could have been recorded in the musical heyday of the ’70s.

The recording of the CD was financed entirely by fans of the Eve Selis band via the crowdfunding web sites Kickstarter and PledgeMusic. A video appeal on both sites asking everyone to be a part of her “record label” brought in donations from $10 to $10,000. This allowed Selis to not only record at Big Fish with Churchyard but to hire renowned musician Albert Lee, described by Eric Clapton as “…the greatest guitarist in the world.” She also brought in acclaimed sidemen, Dennis Caplinger on fiddle, mandolin, dobro and banjo and Rick Schmidt on steel guitar.

Mastering was done in Nashville by Best Engineer Grammy® Award winner Richard Dodd, known for his work with The Dixie Chicks, Big and Rich, Martina McBride, Brooks and Dunn, Tom Petty and many more.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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Levellers – the new album videos plus free track download

Folk-rock band Levellers will release their tenth studio album, Static On The Airwaves, on 25 June 2012.

They have also just announced an 11 date UK headline tour in November including a night at London’s O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on Saturday 24 November. Levellers will be joined by special guests Citizen Fish and have an acoustic tour planned for September.

Already being heralded as their most accomplished album to date, Static On The Airwaves is the sound of a band whose incisive lyrics, innate musicality and passion have continued to improve rather than diminish in nearly a quarter of a century of writing, recording and performing.

‘Truth Is’, the first single from the album was released on Saturday 21 April as A Limited Edition Red Vinyl 7” version as part of Record Store Day, the digital download is also now available.

Produced by Sean Lakeman, who is renowned for producing his brother’s Mercury-nominated and gold-selling albums as well as Letters From The Underground (Levellers’ previous album), Static On The Airwaves was recorded ‘as live’ at Sono Studios in Prague and mixed in New York by the legendary Victor Van Vugt (PJ Harvey, Beth Orton, Nick Cave).

Sell-out tours and nine years of a sell-out festivals are powerful proof of the power of the underground and the power of great live music. Renowned for their energetic live shows, longevity has not diminished the Levellers’ ability to put in a performance and get everyone in a room, or field, dancing.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

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RICHARD DIGANCE – Dorking Folk Club (09.05.12)

You know it’s going to be a great night when you see the broadly grinning expectations of the ‘sold out’ audience come streaming through the doors carrying with them the thoughts that tonight is going to be extra special. Of course it’s an expectation born of the rumours that a ‘legend’ is playing a local ‘folk club’ and that legend just happens to be Richard Digance (yes, him off the telly!). With an easy-going presentation that a lot of young ‘folk’ performers could do well to learn from Digance is everything to every man (and woman). Such is his delivery of well observed anecdotes that they appear as well lobbed audio grenades eliciting guffaws of laughter without the need for offensive language unlike a lot of ‘so-called’ comedians these days. Reminiscing is what it’s all about and in this respect he offers it on a plate. Drawing on vignettes as a performer he makes each and everyone feel as if they’ve known him personally all of their lives and, indeed, many of us have. The songs, storytelling and banter of his East-End upbringing even if not one hundred percent historically correct as in the case of “The Ballad Of Johnny Puller” it is the attention to detail that makes you believe in the character. Such was the warmth and bond with tonight’s very respectful crowd Richard even felt comfortable enough to try out several new songs including an ode to the painter John Constable that, with two choruses was unusual but met with an appreciation Vaughan Williams might have expected the first time he performed ‘Lark Ascending’. His well deserved encore “Letter From Afghanistan” with its snipe at English football players in general (and deservedly so) should be required listening by ‘the team’ and if tonight’s audience were anything to go by I would say he hit the goal every time…right to the back of the net. If you get the chance to see him in the intimacy of a club…take it, you won’t be disappointed and I’m sure you can ask anyone who was at Dorking for a shining endorsement! By the way for those of you reading this review that didn’t get the chance to buy his CDs check out the link below. PETE FYFE

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An interview with Andy Letcher from the band Telling the Bees by Charlotte Shirvington

The Beginning of a New Era…

Tucked away in the idyllic setting of one of the oldest towns in the UK is a wonderful band.

That band is Telling the Bees, and we managed to get an interview with the lead singer and songwriter himself, Andy Letcher.

So Andy, when was it that Telling the Bees started up?

A: It would have been a few years back now, around 2006 when the band was first born.

How on earth did you come up with such a wonderful name?

A: I was given a forgotten English calendar a few years ago which featured a different word or phrase every day, and I started collecting some of the most interesting ones. One of these was telling the bees. It’s just an old custom which is only just in living memory now, but bee keepers would have to inform their bees about important family events or they feared that the bees would swarm. So the head of the household would march down the garden and tap three times on the bee hive with an old iron key, and proclaim the news to the bees of what was going on. When the first album came out, we received an email from someone who told us that their Grandma still had the key with which she used to tell the bees any news. It’s just a quirky bit of deeply peculiar folklore.

That’s wonderful! So, you have the new album; An English Arcanum. What was the inspiration behind that one?

A: There wasn’t really any inspiration as such, it just kind of came together. The songs we were working on at the time just became an album. An Arcanum is a mystery or a hidden secret, and one main theme in all my songs is nature having its own secrets. Like when you go to a location like a hill, it has a spirit of place and you cant quite put your finger on what it is. That’s the mystery of it.

The artwork featured on your albums is also superb. Do you do that yourselves?

A: No, that’s done by a fantastic artist called Rima Staines. She’s based near Dartmoor now, and we found her via Myspace and fell in love with her artwork which draws on medieval and eastern European influences. I thought of the idea of having something representing each of the songs on the cover of an English Arcanum, and she came up with a wonderful image of the spirit of old England all knocked about and toothless but still going, and he’s playing some kind of barrel organ which is a cabinet of curiosities. In each compartment is a symbol or image representing each of the songs.

Absolutely wonderful art. Now, you all have side projects such as Duotone and WOD. Does that bring more creativity and inspiration into the band?

A: Hmm…that’s a good question. The songs I write myself and I do that entirely on my own- I always wait for them to come to me, and then I present them to the band. It’s very healthy to have the different projects, as they help bring more influence in. I play in a trio with Jane and Jim from Telling the Bees called WOD, and we play for French and Breton dancers. It’s a much looser structure than with Telling the Bees as everything has to be arranged by necessity but in WOD it’s much freer. Often we’ll be taking a tune which we’ll then play for twenty minutes and therefore you’ll have to find the richness within the tune to keep it interesting for the dancers, so there is a lot more improvisation in that. The aim with Telling the Bees is to be able to get to a point where the music is just flowing through.

So, you’re also a lecturer in Oxford. How do you manage to juggle the time between doing the day job and the music?

A: I lecture part time, which allows me the time to do other things that I want to do. I enjoy lecturing, don’t get me wrong, but song writing is a fickle thing and I’m not one of those people who can just sit down and write a song; I haven’t written a song in 6 months.

I have learned that it’s ok and they’ll come when they come. The only problem I have is not being able to turn off the Bardic part of me; so when I’m lecturing and the students are falling asleep, dropping like flies, I immediately go ‘Come on, what do I have to do to wake you up?!’ I can’t just ignore the fact that there’s a room full of sleeping people. I need every lecture to be a brilliant gig.

You were also involved in the Newbury Bypass protests. What was it like to be there in the middle of the protest?

A: Blimey, it feels slightly like ancient history now, but it fell at a time when I really wanted to do something active. I began life as an Ecologist, and everything was very theoretical and abstract, and I wanted to do something practical. That’s when the whole road protest thing kicked off. I went down to visit Newbury one November evening and I just knew I had to get involved. I have to admit, I am the world’s worst road protester- I get vertigo on a shag-pile carpet! So I’m not much of an eco warrior. I definitely went with a Bardic role, and played an awful lot of music supporting people who were up in the trees. It’s a great way to direct the vibes as inevitably there are moments where it gets heated, but if you throw in the right song, a disaster can be averted. So that was my role, and I feel very privileged to have been there. It is one of the biggest influences in my song writing, and to be able to tell the real stories of the people involved is a great thing. It’s also an art form to be able to make a protest song have the energy it needs without being a three minute rant; by telling the story of past events, you’re telling the world what really happened and allowing them to read into it.

Telling the Bees has been going for quite a while now; where do you see it going?

A: It’s definitely building. We’re going to record another album this year, we have booked dates in the diary for recording and we have an initial release date of Autumn this year. I guess now I’ve said it, it will actually happen! We also have a nice gig roster for the summer including the Moseley Folk Festival in Birmingham and the Weirdlore festival in June near Bristol, which is very exciting. So the gigs are starting to come in and we have an exciting year ahead of us. Very excited about the new album as we have a new line up with five of us now, so the sound should be more robust and energetic. So, all the songs are written, we just have to decide which ones are going into the new album and then arrange them. So all in all an exciting year coming up!

If you want to find out more information about Telling the Bees, do go to where you can find news about upcoming events and news.

Charlotte Shirvington

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.