John Smith and his third studio album Great Lakes plus the new track Master Kilby

John Smith_credit_Warren_Orchard_Guitarist and songwriter John Smith has had a busy year on the back of his sparsely beautiful third studio album Great Lakes (released earlier this year).

Smith recently headlined a sold-out show in the UK at London’s Union Chapel  and has previously played alongside Iron & Wine, Richard Hawley, Jarvis Cocker and Eliza Carthy on the acclaimed Bright Phoebus Revisited tour.

Smith recorded the previously unheard track below to promote that last tour. Unfortunately we didn’t get to the tour dates in time to let you know about them but we were so impressed by John’s take on the traditional folk song ‘Master Kilby’ that we felt me had to share it with you.

John Smith’s musical destiny was cast in his early life, informed in no small part by the records his father chose to play during family gatherings at their West Country fishing village home. Amongst other albums, it was the inclusion of Ry Cooder’s late 70s masterpiece Bop Till You Drop which had a mesmeric effect on his young son’s imagination. ‘That really hit me hard’ says John. ‘Just hearing that really intricate guitar and soulful singing. I just remember not knowing what this thing was, or what it meant, but I knew I wanted more’. It was not long after this that his father entrusted the young Smith with his own guitar, equipping also him with the skills to navigate his way through Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’. ‘I was only 11’ Smith smiles, ‘I remember saying to him ‘How have they made another world with music?’ Then he played me Tom Wait’s Invitation To The Blues and the Bert Jansch & John Renbourn album and I was gone. I basically stayed in my room practicing for 8 hours a day until I left home. You can see colours when records are that good.’

Quite aside from the fact that it is an album of astonishing beauty, the arrival of Great Lakes is something of a miraculous happening in itself, given that it followed a 2 year period of writer’s block so crippling that Smith had considered abandoning song-writing altogether. But when the cloud lifted, the results were plentiful- at the back end of 2011 Smith began working with 2 songwriters, Dennis Ellsworth and the legendary American producer Joe Henry (Lisa Hannigan, Loudon Wainwright, Solomon Burke), and by spring 2012, had over 15 fully formed new songs.

It was only when Smith listening back to the early takes that he recorded in a Chapel in North Wales that he could chart the creative scope of the new materiel, which then filled him with renewed enthusiasm. ‘I looked at my last two records and realised there wasn’t that much there for people to dig into. I think it had been too dense, too inaccessible.’ The new tracks were more organic – the beguiling ‘Salty and Sweet’ literally came to Smith in a dream, with Lisa Hannigan singing the refrain’s harmony- who also shares the vocal credits for this track on Great Lakes. Smith admits to a fascination with notions of water as a metaphor for love, which is a sentiment borne out across tracks on Great Lakes– see the propulsive ebb & flow of spine-tingling ‘England Rolls Away’ and John’s rather pertinent questioning ‘What is love if not the perfect storm?’ on the track that bears the same title.

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UK debut album by AlascA

AlascA liveOn their debut UK release ACTORS & LIARS, AlascA play eleven tales and songs that have the tendency of lodging themselves in the old grey matter. AlascA’s music has a novel and poetic quality, which to me anyway, will leave a lasting impression.

The tales grow on you and the melodies that guide the lyrics to their end have a place in the past, the present and the future. Their lingering melodies will appeal to the listeners of current indie-folk, but will likewise inspire those who loved the folk sounds, close harmonies and lyrical subtleties of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s.

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ACTORS & LIARS by AlascAACTORS & LIARS was produced by Grammy-award winning engineer and producer Alan Branch (U2, Jeff Beck, Yusuf Islam, Blur, Nine Inch Nails). When released in the Netherlands in 2012 it peaked at No 9 in the Dutch charts in the week after its release (and stayed in the top 50 the subsequent six weeks) and received much critical acclaim in the Netherlands and Belgium. AlascA’s live performances are characterized by their shifts from intimate singer-songwriter tales to bombastic folk-rock explosions. AlascA are based near Amsterdam and consist of Frank Bond (vocals, guitars, bass), William Bond (harmonies, keys), Ferdinand Jonk (harmonies, banjo, 12-string guitar) and Louis van Sinderen (drums, percussion).

AlascA Photo: www.marcobakker.comThe band are inspired by a diverse collection of bands including the Beatles, Love, the Zombies, Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, CSNY, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Tim Buckley, Gene Clark, the Doors, Fleetwood Mac, Pentangle, David Bowie, Big Star, Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, The Dears, The Shins, Fleet Foxes, Sufjan Stevens, Midlake, Yeasayer and Iron & Wine. AlascA have played on De Wereld Draait Door, the Dutch leading prime time television programme and have played at most of the major radio stations in the Netherlands such as Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3FM and Omrop Fryslan.

All the songs on the album apart from Déjà Vu, written by Ferdinand Jonk, were written by Frank Bond. Frank studied English Literature and Literary Sciences at the University of Amsterdam and obtained his Master of Arts Degree in 2009. Frank’s Ma Thesis is on Bob Dylan and provided a critical look into the most prominent academic approaches to Bob Dylan’s lyrics. The thesis was praised for its line of argument and the fact that it proposes a more productive and adequate analysis which also attempts to incorporate the musical elements of Dylan’s song lyrics. After graduation, the thesis was published. Frank, however, is and was not satisfied with the scope of the thesis and is currently working on a revision of his methods of analysis. He is also working on several essays on the various aspects of the current day music industry. In line with his background, Frank’s songwriting and lyrics are inspired by literature and philosophy, in particular Shakespeare, Keats, Coleridge, Yeats, Hemingway, Rimbaud, Pound, Joyce, Lucebert, Sartre, Foucault, Fowles, Kafka, Twain and Lawrence.

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For more information and the latest tour dates visit http://www.alascamusic.com/