The Agnostic-Phibes Rhythm and Blood Conspiracy releases CAMPFIRE TALES…

Folkmaster – This may not be to everyone’s folking taste but I’ve had a few beers and have decided why not?

Sort of reminds me of an early Blue Oyster Cult line-up that have been kidnapped by the Hammer House horror team. Here’s the press release with a couple of SoundCloud tracks…

In the deep, dark woods of Canada, somewhere in the middle of nowhere, there is a dilapidated cabin. Illuminated only by a single gas lantern and a wood stove, the frontman of garage-punk, underground legends Forbidden Dimension and the three members of twisted roots-music cult-heroes Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir compose haunting and raucous tales of death and mystery. What? Did you hear right? Garage-punk misanthrope Jackson Phibes playing with THAT Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir? Yes, you did. You heard perfectly well. There is no need for us to repeat ourselves.

The unlikely collaboration started when the AMGC went on hiatus in 2010 and guitarist Bob Keelaghan found the exact location where the mysterious Forbidden Dimension singer/guitarist/tunesmith Jackson Phibes had decided to turn his back on humanity. As it turns out, Phibes was hard at work on new Forbidden Dimension material when the AMGC guitarist, along with bassist Vlad Sobolewski and drummerJason Woolley, found him in his remote shack. At first, Phibes was suspicious, belligerent, and suffering from ailments brought on by a steady diet of squirrels. After persistent badgering, Phibes was satisfied they were sincere musicians with chops to boot and he agreed to collaborate on an album.

While excited about Phibes’ rediscovery, people were at first confused. The AMGC had developed a world-wide cult following from St. Hubert, Fighting And Onions andTen Thousand, their three albums of updated, raw, ragged, pre-WW II acoustic-blues and Appalachian banjo freak-outs. They boasted fans like Seasick Steve and former BBC Radio DJ Mark Lamarr. They drew standing ovations at prestigious festivals like the Big Chill Festival in England and the Winnipeg Folk Festival in Canada.

Since the late 1980s, Jackson Phibes fronted the longest-running punk rock band in Calgary, now in its 23rd year of existence. FD built its reputation on pile-driving rock music with lyrics inspired by classic horror movies. Across the globe, fans of garage trash eagerly devoured his classic tunes of cartoonish morbidity like ‘Tonight I Paint In Flesh Colour’ and ‘Graveyard Line’.

How could such a partnership work? Anyone who bothered to get past the garish, grease-paint stage show and listen to a Forbidden Dimension record knew Phibes was well-versed in the R&B of early garage rockers, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Link Wray, and pioneering psychobilly. Above all, he is a killer songwriter and storyteller. He just happens to dwell on monsters, madmen, and libidinous biker women. And on the other side of the coin, music critics have frequently referred to the ferocious punk elements in the Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir approach to blues and country. Common ground? Plenty.

With patience and coaxing, the combo recorded Campfire Tales, an album that sews together the worlds of garage rock and roots music, building a bridge between the old-time tradition of the murder ballad with modern macabre storytelling. The dark imagery is augmented by guitars that simultaneously howl with electricity and brood acoustically. Woolley’s clanky drums accent growling vocals while Sobolewski’s upright bass pounds away. Together they create an atmosphere both moody and rowdy. Surely, this disc will spin the punk-blues scene on its pointed, little head.

Listen to the eerie, country ghost-ride that calls itself ‘Campfire Tales’ or the dual-guitar hooks on country-blues-meets-gypsy-freakout ‘Wolfman Franz’ (an ode to an eastern European madman); or ‘Necking Party’, a hypnotic swamp rock tale of teenage lust and voyeurism gone horribly awry that gets extra spooky with Phibes’ ghostly wails from his feedback guitar. The guitars of Phibes and Keelaghan meld seamlessly and the band seduce listeners with their superb musicianship. After prying your eardrums away from your stereo the pairing of Phibes and the Agnostics will make perfect sense.

Yes, Petunia, the collaboration between members of Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir and Jackson Phibes of Forbidden Dimension is here and ready for your consumption. After all the delays and false release dates, July 16, 2012 marked the release of Campfire Tales by the Agnostic-Phibes Rhythm & Blood Conspiracy.

Shoutin’ Abner Pim proudly says this CD could be the shocker of the year. Musically, it rests somewhere between the garage punk of Forbidden Dimension and the clang-banging country blues of the Agnostics, but it goes to places neither band does. The songwriting strengths of Jackson Phibes and Bob Keelaghan are brought to the fore as is their intricate guitar interplay. It’s a wild ride and we trust it will appeal to your discerning tastes.

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Moulettes rear up in preparation for The Bear’s Revenge…

Moulettes release the first single from forthcoming album The Bear’s Revenge on May 28th. on Balling The Jack Records. The band have chosen live favourite, ’Sing Unto Me’ as the A-side and have included a bumper package of B-sides and remixes, totalling over half an hour of entrancing Moulettes music. Illustrious former Moulette, Ted Dwane, now of Mumford & Sons, returned to play and sing on these recordings, and is “as pleased as Punch” with them!

The band handed esteemed Guardian critic Robin Denselow an unmastered copy at the Royal Festival Hall’s New Year’s Eve party, where they were playing, and he wrote effusively about the track a few days later.

“Quirky, gently chilling and upbeat in turn, Moulettes match fine female harmonies against cello, violin and bassoon. They were in excellent, unpredictable form at the Southbank.”

The melodic, haunting ‘Sing Unto Me’ has the makings of a modern folk-rock classic. The B-sides are the hypnotic ‘A Cappella’ with Ríoghnach Connolly on guest vocals and also features a Norwegian nyckelharpa. made by band leader Hannah Miller’s father, Alan, and played by her sister Esther. The epic, tragi-comic ‘Are You Going Away To Sea?’ follows. Then ‘Assault’ blows in – a fantastical, furious instrumental duet between virtuoso violinist Georgina Leach (who has recently recorded and performed with Seasick Steve and John Paul Jones) and cellist Miller. Miller has recently recorded with Adrian McNally of The Unthanks for his solo endeavour ‘The Boat Project’. A mind-blowing dub-step remix of ‘Sing…’ by Wax 22, (Ben Startup of Valley Studios in Winchester), and a cover by sometime Moulette, Sam Walker of The Muel, fill out this musical feast.

The band’s second album, The Bear’s Revenge  is due out on July 9th, 2012. As well as the aforementioned Ted  and Ríoghnach , other contributors include acclaimed folk-blues songstress, long-time friend and collaborator Liz Green and virtuoso banjo-ist, Matt Menefee of American bluegrass band Cadillac Sky.

Moulettes charismatic brand of folk incorporates elements of prog-rock, Classical and World music and has enthralled crowds at many festivals, including Larmer Tree, Glastonbury, Big Session and Latitude, where they played BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction stage. The following festivals have been confirmed for 2012 – End Of The Road, Cambridge Folk Festival, Bestival, Knockengorroch – World Ceilidh, Rhythm, and Purbeck Folk. More to come! Much, much more to come…

 “…delicious music, played with acoustic virtuosity…Complex and beautiful…Intriguing and unique”  MOJO

“The best music I heard [at Latitude] was by Moulettes…” The Independent

“Divine harmonies…Orchestral folk at its very finest.” Time Out

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Artist’s website: www.moulettes.co.uk

The Proposition KING SNAKE DEVIL SHAKE… Debut album

“The Proposition combine authentic old-timey Americana with a roughly hewn, melody rich acoustic roots.” R2

Some of the most exciting discoveries in ‘pop’ of recent years have come from the rootsier end of the spectrum. Acts like Seasick Steve and Fisherman’s Friends proved that authentic content and unfussy presentation can have broad appeal. And both acts proved that grizzled features are no barrier to success.

The Proposition’s debut album King Snake, Devil Shake is another reminder that no amount of processed pop can beat stirringly memorable songs and charismatic performance, by artists who have ‘lived a life’.

It’s in the life-lived authenticity of The Proposition themselves that the magic of King Snake, Devil Shake lies. Because The Proposition write and sing from a compellingly honest adult perspective.

King Snake, Devil Shake is full of youthful energy and musical vim (as are The Proposition’s thrilling live performances). But the album’s lyrical themes are those of men who have themselves raised families to adulthood and who have battled as only 50-somethings can have done with love, faith, money, regret, death, and in all the other messy arenas of the human condition.

It’s tough to pigeonhole The Proposition. Arguably they are a ‘folk’ group, if only in the sense that their instrumentation is largely acoustic (acoustic guitars, banjos, slide guitar, mandolin, drums, and a smattering of bass). And they might be considered a ‘country’ band. They have heartbreak and honesty in common with the best country music. But they are a thousand miles from purist folk or country, or from the introspective singer-songwriter approach. This is a band of storytellers rather than confessors. One working title for the album wasCollected Short Stories.

And whilst the music carrying the stories is deceptively simple in construction, it is big and muscular in presence and impact, especially when you consider The Proposition is an acoustic trio. The Proposition’s live performances owe much more to the celebratory energy of rock artists like Springsteen or The Hold Steady and the fearless swagger of the likes of Steve Earle or Johnny Cash than to youthful sensitivities or to any kind of folk conventions.

Perhaps the closest comparisons musically are the USA’s Avett Brothers and Felice Brothers, but for the very clear ‘Englishness’ of The Proposition’s aesthetic.

In one sense King Snake, Devil Shake has been three years in the making (the time The Proposition has been performing as a trio) but its gestation period is really closer to two decades. Singer/guitarist Simon Middleton, drummer/slide-guitarist Steve Clark and bassist/banjitarist Nigel Orme have been performing together in varied line-ups and genres since the end of the 1980s. Their long musical apprenticeship has seen them play support slots for artists as different as Jools Holland, Rev. Peyton and His Big Damn Band, and even (bizarrely) Tony Hadley.

King Snake, Devil Shake was produced by Nick Brine at the legendary Rockfield Studios and at Leeders Farm in Norfolk. Brine (who has produced Seasick Steve, K T Tunstall, Teenage Fanclub and The Darkness), has captured the clattering harmony-rich energy of the The Proposition throughout the 13 track album, as well as their ability to shift dynamic from song to song.

Opening with the rockabilly rumble of Welcome To the Promised Land, the album shifts gear to the timeless redemption-seeking Hank-meets-Dylan Mr Foolish. Trad-folk barroom stomp Nobody’s Fool is a celebration of infidelity, and Lovers’ Leap is an old-timey short story of mariticide set to a thundering rhythm.

Resurrection Day evokes a primitive rural congregation. Summer Lightning is a classic country teen-romance story with a very adult outcome. Europa I Still Love You is a thriller-road-movie in a four-minute waltz-time ballad, shifting setting from Montmartre to St. Petersburg and from Barcelona to Budapest.

And that’s just half the album! Apart from any other of its virtues, this is a great genre-busting ‘pop’ record, rich with melodies, steering-wheel-slapping rhythm, slide guitar hooks and giant sing-along choruses.

Put aside expectations of what mould a folk/country/rock band should fit, and open your ears to The Proposition below…

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RETURN OF THE CROPREDY EXILE – By Dai Jeffries

Whisper this, but I hadn’t been to for twenty years. I had felt it was getting too big for my personal comfort – when I first went there was one campsite, now there are seven – but an insistent invitation drew me back this year. In fact what are bigger are the camper vans, the folding chairs and, dare I say, the waistlines. We older and …er…more substantial punters do like our comforts. Some aspects of the festival are more technological and sophisticated. The bar is a marvel of mobile opulence although initially no more efficient than in the days when there was one Wadsworth’s lorry, lots of barrels and one choice of beer. That’s no reflection on the brilliant bar-staff, by the way, but logistics do sometimes let the side down.

An innovation during my absence is the big screen which, in between displaying safety information, “televises” the show. It can be a boon for those at the top of the field although it’s often obscured by a forest of flagpoles. The interesting thing is that even down the hill at the front, unless you’re actually leaning on the pit barrier, you find yourself watching the screen, not the performers. Sure, you get 10 foot high images of John Tams’ face and Graeme Taylor’s plectrum technique but it feels wrong. If they could just pipe it into the cable TV network we wouldn’t actually have to go there. Er…maybe not.

Everything else is pretty much the same. The stewards are unobtrusive, laid-back and helpful and with road closures around the site their help was invaluable. The familiar spirit of the festival remains. Two examples that I heard about: one couple left their car keys in the door when they went to bed and woke to find the car locked and the keys safely guarded and a purse containing credit cards and a good deal of money was lost overnight and returned intact the following day. I’m not sure where else that would happen. T-shirts remain the badges of identification and mutual recognition although in general clothes are less outré – that goes with the Aldi and Tesco carrier bags. There are still more food concessions than can you eat from without the aid of a tapeworm, lots of silly hats to buy and, increasingly important as one gets older, civilised toilets. Don’t laugh, it’s important. And despite promising myself that I wouldn’t visit the CD store, I failed to keep my promise.

The rain loitered with intent on Thursday afternoon but stayed away as Fairport Convention opened the proceedings with a short and none too serious acoustic set followed by Katriona Gilmore & Jamie Roberts and Blair Dunlop. Hearing ‘Walk Awhile’ as the second song really sets you up for the weekend. Bob Harris introduced Home Service as the evening’s compère, John Tams, was too modest to introduce himself. It is so good to have the band back together although it has to be said that their failure to invite Bill Caddick to return raises awkward questions. Their set was familiar material – new boy Paul Archibald had to learn another back catalogue after all – and, in the current climate, it was impossible to listen to ‘Alright Jack’ and ‘Sorrow’ without reflecting on how little things have changed.

Hayseed Dixie might be considered a one trick pony but they perform the trick very well, although I have my reservations about their interpretations of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. A couple of serious moments were hidden in the rockgrass but I’m not sure if anybody noticed. They had a lot of fans at the festival, particularly among those who found Home Service too intellectually challenging to actually bother listening to. UB40 closed the day – slick, professional and, I have to admit, not my thing at all.

Before it actually opens to the public the arena is rather eerie. I watched Seasick Steve sound-checking with his pounding drums reverberating around the empty site. Steve was Friday’s headliner and I still can’t make up my mind whether he’s the great original everyone reckons he is or a charming old fraud. Don’t get me wrong, I love his music, but I don’t buy into his story. If I’m right he’s only following in the tradition of Bob Dylan who, in his early days, fed interviewers the most outrageous lies and watched them lap up everything he said. Listen to Folksinger’s Choice for prima facie evidence.

Moore Moss Rutter provided a suitably relaxed start to Friday, another day when the weather couldn’t make its mind up. The Travelling Band began with a Blind Lemon Jefferson tune which felt like a smart move. They moved on to their own material variously augmented by viola, cello and brass and played an exciting set which was also VERY loud. I rather liked them despite that but the contrast in approach was hard on Steve Tilston who had to follow them. I also like Steve and his partnership with The Durbevilles feels like a very natural match on a song like ‘Jackaranda’. This was a good set and The Oxenhope EP was one of my purchases. Charlie Dore provided yet more country-style music – the theme of the day, it seems. I found her set rather relaxing which was good for the late afternoon slot but I confess that I was waiting for The Dylan Project.

Like his hero, Steve Gibbons is seventy this year. How did that happen? Everything about him is unique from his look to his guitar style and the way he used to make Keith Richards appear the picture of robust good health. They played a tight set with none of Steve’s extemporising as they mixed the downbeat – ‘Dark Eyes’, ‘Sweetheart Like You’ and ‘Cold Irons Bound’ – with the simpler sentiments of ‘Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You’ and ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’. ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’ seemed a most appropriate choice given the events of the preceding week.

The Urban Folk Quartet was another band who benefited from my visit to the record stall but they had released a live album at a special Cropredy price and I wasn’t about to pass that up. UFQ are another band who have found a new approach to traditional music. Frank Moon’s oud features heavily, Joe Broughton seems to play more guitar than fiddle but who’s counting, Paloma Trigas is a bundle of energy and Tom Chapman joins a small roster of singing percussionists. If you haven’t heard them yet, you really should.

The Coral: ahead of their time or brilliantly retro? They included ‘Ticket To Ride’ in a spectacular show of their 21st century rock and would have made a better final act. It was unfortunate that there was a delay before Seasick Steve took to the stage. There was none of the redneck southerner schtick you get on TV and he seemed rather low key. I chose to watch him from the top of the field to see how he would work with such a big crowd and sad to say people around me were drifting away into the cold night long before the end of his set. I’d like to see him live in a smaller, more intimate, venue but so meteoric has been his rise to fame that he doesn’t play small gigs any more.

Richard Digance is a fixture as Saturday’s opener. Part comic, part social commentator and all warm-up man he did a superb job, getting the crowd on its feet doing silly things and listening to some serious songs – ‘Jobs’ is absolutely brilliant. It’s a combination that pulled the audience together and pointed it in the right direction. Next up, it was lovely finally to see The Shee on stage: fiddles, flute, mandolin, accordion, harp and voices performing their mixture of Scottish and American music and songs. I like the way they wear their posh frocks on stage, too.

Blockheads without Ian Dury: does it work? Well, the sun came out and England won a test match while they were on stage so I guess it does. The band isn’t exactly the same, inevitably, but in Derek “The Draw” Hussey they have a suitably eccentric lead vocalist who doesn’t attempt to imitate Dury but manages to channel his attitude. Songs like ‘Inbetweenies’ and ‘What A Waste!’ have been part of the band’s DNA for so long that they can’t fail to sound good.

My live experience of Lau suggested that they could be even louder than The Blockheads but the festival sound crew just about kept them in check. Martin Green seems to have more equipment every time I see the band – now he has a keyboard to go with his accordion and pedals adding new textures to Lau’s sound palette. The accordion was frequently used as a bass instrument with Martin playing a melody on the keyboard.

A decade ago Jim Lockhart introduced me to the art of ligging Dublin-style. This involved more pints of stout than I care to remember, being invited to a couple’s engagement party and being told by a lady with the reddest hair I’ve ever seen that my destiny was linked with the sea. As the ferry back from Rosslare didn’t sink I haven’t taken her too seriously. At the time Jim was head of production at RTÉ 2fm but in his previous life he played keyboards and flute with Horslips. Sadly they broke up before I had chance to hear them live which made their performance at Cropredy something of a milestone for me. Yes, Horslips are back, although Johnny Fean’s brother Ray now sits in for drummer Eamonn Carr. The outrageous stage clothes are gone and the band is rather more soberly dressed now but can still play those hits: ‘Dearg Doom’, ‘Trouble With A Capital T’, ‘Charolais’ and ‘Mad Pat’ as well as the soaring instrumentals from The Book Of Invasions.  It was a moment of magic.

I’ve tried listening to Badly Drawn Boy several times and it hasn’t worked. He has one great song, ‘Born In The UK’, but that’s not enough to hold my interest. My opinion was not helped by the fact that Horslips were cut short while Bad milked a smattering of applause for two encores. Look, this is personal recollection and I’ll be as partisan as I like, OK?

A typical Saturday set by Fairport Convention consists of some compulsory songs, explorations of the byways of their back catalogue and a succession of alumni and friends doing their thing. This wasn’t typical. Its centrepiece was a complete “Babbacombe” Lee which occupied a third of the programme and, of course, there’s a new album to promote which doesn’t leave a lot of time. They opened with ‘Walk Awhile’ and closed with ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’, ‘Matty Groves’ and ‘Meet On The Ledge’. ‘Crazy Man Michael’, ‘Honour And Praise’, ‘Mr Lacey’ and ‘The Hiring Fair’ were the other oldies. Ralph McTell dropped in for a couple of songs and PJ Wright and Phil Bond augmented Fairport when lead guitar and keyboards were required but otherwise the band stood up to be counted. I’m glad I heard “Babbacombe” Lee having managed to miss it on the spring tour and the use of films on the big screen added an extra something to the show. ‘Matty Groves’ was illustrated by a video featuring Barbie and Ken and what appeared to be a meerkat in a submarine – it was late, I’d had a beer or two: who knows what I saw?

So, has Cropredy grown too big? Yes, I think it has but I’ll qualify that by saying that the infrastructure is quite capable of coping with the 20,000 people who turn up each year. But on Saturday afternoon it was almost impossible to move around the field without kicking, jostling or stepping on someone and it was impossible to sit quietly and mind one’s own business without being kicked, jostled or stepped on. Thursday has now grown into an official day and the fringe occupies two pubs in the village. It may be time to consider a second stage. I would have been more than happy to see some of the acts play a second set in a smaller venue or some of the fringe artists accommodated there. It would take the pressure off the main area and restore the relaxed atmosphere that existed back in the eighties. I missed that. 

Dai Jeffries

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For more information on Fairport Convention visit: http://www.fairportconvention.com/

Dai has also created a Flickr photo set from the festival which you can view by clicking on the following link:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/daijeffries/sets/72157627345454269/