Nov 13

Blues Pills – Young, Gifted and Blues…

Blues Pills - Medication Time

Blues Pills – Medication Time

Up until very recently I’d never heard of Blues Pills. Now I can’t get enough of them. It was a casual mention of their name in a Crobot review in Metalhammer magazine that brought them to my attention, and fuck me, am I grateful! That’s because Blues Pills are the most exciting young blues/rock band I’ve heard in an extremely long time, and by that I mean a generation!

I love the blues, and although I wouldn’t describe myself as a diehard aficionado (all that old stuff of the 30s, 40s and 50s is great but maybe just a little too one dimensional for my liking), I am a huge fan of the blues revolution of the late sixties and early seventies and all that it spawned. Those trailblazing artists, the likes of Hendrix, Clapton, Page and Beck took blues music to a whole new level, creating a completely new genre of blues rock that really continues to be the benchmark for all established and aspiring artists today. I mean, the four names I just mentioned are all considered as guitar gods, I wonder how many current guitarists in popular bands today will be held in anything near the same regard? Very few is my guess, if any at all.

I talk often about the lack of any real musical direction in the last twenty years, since grunge was able to tap into the psyche of 90’s youth (myself included) and become the down-tuned behemoth that it was. Incidentally, grunge is yet another genre that owed plenty to those early blues pioneers and probably the last group of musicians to be remembered for changing the landscape upon which they roamed. But since the grunge movement fizzled out at the turn of the new century, either through self induced illness and in some cases death, band break-ups, or simply just an ageing audience who just weren’t that angry anymore, there’s really failed to be any real direction to modern rock music.

Lately however, that has begun to change a little. There are more and more new young bands popping up on the scene, all displaying a little more than just a blues edge about them. Granted it may not be a completely new direction, but it’s very pleasing to see the creative youth of today acknowledging and re-visiting those glory days of the old masters – Messrs Hendrix, Clapton, Page and Beck. Just thinking about it, I give a lot of credit to Jack White for that. The White Stripes, along with all his other projects were and are hugely successful and are all based upon a distinctly bluesy sound. And in his footsteps followed other modern powerhouses, the most notable of which probably being The Black Keys, even if recent releases of theirs have been slightly diluted in blues terms, it’s still the foundation of their sound.

As I said, there are many great young blues/rock bands appearing on the scene, bands like, Kill It Kid, Rival Sons, Crobot, to name but a few, all slowly but surely achieving the success they deserve, and all hailing from each side of the pond. This is not limited to one country or another, this new movement is happening as much in the UK and Europe as it is in the States. For reasons as simple as nationality, three of those four aforementioned ‘Masters’ were English and the other an American who had to come to England to be accepted and appreciated, Blues/Rock music will always and continues to have strong associations and an extremely loyal fan base within the United kingdom as much as anywhere else.

Another British artist who many would consider a ‘Master’ of the sixties blues movement but one who for one reason or another gets less credit is Peter Green. His Fleetwood Mac, the original Fleetwood Mac were a free flowing, experimental blues band who were just as responsible for changing the face of the blues as anybody else. The Boston Tea Party recordings are as good as any blues music you will ever hear. And it was those recordings that instantly sprang to my mind the first time I heard Blues Pills in full flow. I say it all the time, but some bands are just special. Sometimes the sum of a band’s parts makes so much more than each of it’s individual players. There is a magic, a chemistry that happens when certain individuals are brought together that cannot be explained or deduced, it just happens. And especially in blues music, there is a difference between a band that like the blues and want to play it, and a band where the music just seems to happen. It just seems to flow from every pore. They are not playing music, they are the music, the music is them. Blues Pills are one of those very special bands. They are the music they create.

Fronted by the immensely talented Elin Larsson, who along with having the most incredible set of pipes since Beth Hart also happens to be blonde, Swedish and gorgeous, Blues Pills are much more than a great vocalist, even if it’s Elin you just can’t help but notice first by sheer virtue of her vocal talent. Formed in Iowa by half brothers Zack Anderson (bass) and Cory Berry (drums), the latter of which has seemingly now left the band, the line-up was completed with the addition initially of Elin and followed by the extremely young and talented (he was just 16 years of age at the time and isn’t much older now) french guitarist Dorian Sorriaux. And boy can he play. Much like Peter Green there is an understated air to his style, with a similar attack and approach, a tonal clarity that evokes Greens style almost identically in the slow stuff, but sounds somewhat Hendrix-like in the faster stuff, and an ability to tear it up and shred as good as any of your Kenny Wayne Shepherds or Jonny Langs. Painted all on a backdrop of funky, driven bass lines from Zack and simple, effective drum lines now from André Kvarnström, this band have all the ingredients to do very special things. One thing that struck me the second I heard them was their authenticity. It’s a word that comes up all the time when you read what other people think about them and it really is the crux of the matter. Many bands make good blues rock music, not so many of them sound authentic doing it, very few infact. Rest assured if Blues Pills had been around in the seventies, you’d already know about them. They’d be huge and I’d be writing about some other band who were trying to be as good and revered as they are.

With a simply brilliant self titled album out earlier this year and available on iTunes, have a look at the videos I’ve posted before you go and buy it. And trust me, if this is your genre, and even if it isn’t, I very much suspect that you will go and buy it. Blues Pills are a class act.

Sep 14

Hillary Howard – More Tweet Music – The Girl With The Blue Guitar

Hillary Howard - She's a bit good!

Hillary Howard – She’s a bit good!

 

The other day I was checking out some of the artists that have followed me lately on Twitter. Like I said in a previous post it’s really cool now because all of a sudden I have good music coming to me rather than me looking for it, which frankly makes life a whole lot easier (and cheaper). In amongst a group of pretty decent bands and some not so decent bands was a singer songwriter called Hillary Howard. Hailing from Minneapolis and at just 19 years of age Hillary is amongst a wealth of young, female artists trying to break onto the current music scene, some lately with great success. Truth be told, with the exception of Chelsea Wolfe, who I was lucky enough to see supporting Queens Of The Stone Age here in St Pete back in February and maybe Lana Del Rey, none of the recent female artists that are filling the charts make the type of music that really get my attention. The likes of Lorde and LadyHawke are all good chart fodder, they’re just not what I like. However, the second Hillary’s voice met my ears on her track ‘Veins’ (which I urge you to check out below or on her Reverbnation site right HERE) my attention was well and truly grabbed!

 


 

In my opinion there’s a big difference between singers (the type of crap you find on talent shows all looking for a break singing other people’s songs) and singer/songwriting musicians. When I listen to music it means more when the piece has come from the artist themselves, the lyrics, the music, the melodies. The artist is giving you something that is personal to them and the reward for the listener is something that’s authentic, honest and emotional – music has to come from within. Hillary has been writing and performing her own music from the age of ten years old, which I find amazing really. At ten years old the only real concept I had of music were those groovy tunes about numbers and letters and stuff they play on Sesame Street. But when you hear her, the sweetness and clarity of her voice and the emotion it carries, the structure of her music, which kinda falls into the categories of alternative/rock/folk, and the gorgeous melodies she lays her lyrics upon, you can’t help but be struck by the pure, natural talent on display. Some people were born to sing and write and make beautiful music, Hillary is one of those lucky people. And while I may envy them a little, I am equally grateful for their existence because people like Jeff Buckley, Bon Iver and the like (the latter of whom Hillary describes as an influence along with her family) touch and change so many lives.

 

 

Currently unsigned to a label (no real hindrance these days really) Hillary does most of her gigging in and around the area in which she lives so if you are reading this in Minneapolis you are very much in luck. Keep an eye on her Reverbnation site for future upcoming gigs, you’ll wanna be able to say you saw her before she got huge because I suspect one day this young lady could be a very big star. You know special talent the second you hear it, so stop reading and click on the video clips I’ve included and hear it!

 

Jul 22

Die So Fluid – A Gang of Three

Die So Fluid - Wow, wow, wow, fucking wow!

Die So Fluid – Wow, wow, wow, fucking wow!

The music business is a strange old game. In an era when the genre of rock music has fallen a bit flat, with no real stand out style or game changing bands arguably since the end of the nineties, it’s a wonder how so often bands with any talent can remain under the radar for so long. You’d expect the cream, as it were, to naturally rise to the top. That being said, it is kinda nice that bands like The Heavy, Kill It Kid and Motorpsycho, to name but a few, get to remain our little secret for as long as they do. However it’s only right to want to see great bands succeed, after all it’s no less than they deserve. In the case of The Heavy and Kill It Kid, it took a popular TV advert to give them each the momentum needed to gain them the popularity they currently enjoy, and you still couldn’t consider either band to have hit the real big time just yet. It’s an era where crap seems to abound, is promoted and celebrated. From the whiny, middle class dirge that is Coldplay and the like, to the supposed nu-metal crap that once respected publications like Kerrang are now peddling. They are merely shit pop bands with guitars that bear no relation to rock or metal music at all. Blues has made a semi comeback thanks to the likes of Jack White, The Black Keys and co, but that’s only because it’s a genre of true substance in the first place that has been around almost since the dawn of popular music itself. Rock and metal can do the same, progressive metal has been doing alright lately with great bands like Mastodon and Tesseract coming to the fore. The Mars Volta were pretty fucking popular for as long as they existed too, they also happened to be pretty fucking good.

You would however still expect talented hard rock bands to be making bigger waves in this era of bland mediocrity. If the modern rock scene was actually any good, bands like Soundgarden and Alice In Chains would probably have stayed in retirement, while the revival of all those fat 80s hair metal bands would probably have never happened, and spared everybody from the embarrassment in the process. The fact is that great new bands do exist, and some have been around a while. One such example is a band called Die So Fluid. I like to think I am fairly up to speed with anything decent that’s going on, but I had never heard of them until very recently. It took a mysterious individual in the cyber world to suddenly appear from nowhere and inform me of their existence, before just as mysteriously disappearing back from whence she came, at least I think it was a ‘she’, it wasn’t particularly clear. However, I will forever be grateful to this curious individual whomever it was, because from the very first listen of this band I was extremely excited about what I was hearing.

Die So Fluid are a three piece ‘power trio’. I’m reluctant to use that phrase cos everybody uses that phrase when there are three players involved, but to be fair they use the phrase themselves and in this particular case it’s quite apt. Fronted by Grog, who plays bass as well as sing, Drew Richards on guitar and Al Fletcher on drums, for about a decade or so Die So Fluid have largely gone unnoticed, and I really cannot figure out for the life of me how they have managed to achieve this? It’s not as if they’ve tried to remain low profile, each of their four albums to date is fantastic in it’s own right and lead singer Grog has as more style and presence than London Fashion Week. Guitarist Drew Richards is probably one of the most talented musicians you’ve never heard of and drummer Al Fletcher is as tight and dynamic on the skins as anybody in any band, anywhere. These are three immensely talented individuals and when they come together, magic is made.

Originally from London (something else to celebrate)  more recently Grog has relocated to the States (something I did too not so long ago so it seems I’m in exceptionally good company) while Drew and Al have remained in the UK. The modern age of communication is such that distance proves no boundary, and the band are able to collaborate from afar, and in fact, have produced their best material to date under these circumstances. Having just released their fourth full length album, ‘The Opposites Of Light’, finally the band are seemingly beginning to get the credit they so richly deserve. I’ve been thinking about how to describe them but it might be best to use their own words from their twitter feed – ‘A dark hearted power trio who fluidly combine the muscle of metal, the angular cheekbones of post punk and the bittersweet of grunge’. That’s pretty accurate as you’d expect but you really have to hear them to realize how good this band is.

The easiest thing for me to do would be to review ‘The Opposites Of Light’, their new record, but that would be too easy, it’s fucking brilliant, every track is great, buy it, I absolutely guarantee you will fucking love it! There you are, reviewed! However, I wanna paint you a bigger picture of what this fantastic three piece are about. Firstly Drew Richards the guitarist, he plays the kind of guitar that makes your knob tingle. And that’s before you even lay eyes on Grog! In all seriousness, I would instantly put the guy up there with ANY of the greatest rock guitarists of our time, and in every sense. Not only in technique, but in his creativity, his vision, and in his execution. Fuck this guy can blaze a riff. No solo is the same, there is so much variation in his sound from track to track, and each solo you hear fits that particular song to absolute fucking perfection. It’s as if they actually have three guitarists in the band such is the depth and versatility of his sound. Whatever the song – heavy, soft, fast, slow, simple or progressive, the guy is absolute perfection on a 6 string. I just love the guy’s sound. If I could play guitar, fuck everybody else, I’d wanna play music like this guy.

And so to Grog, aka Georgina Lisee, who I have to say, grabbed my attention instantly with her punk infused voice and striking presence.The band use the latter well. Naturally as the vocalist the attention tends to be focused on her anyway, but frankly, trying to focus on anything else when she’s around would prove a fruitless task.The whole branding of the band uses Grog as the focal point, and why wouldn’t they? Larger than life would be a good description, captivating would be another. Singer, songwriter, bassist, designer, wordsmith, lyricist, she’s one of those people who seems to be good at everything she turns her hand to. I love her voice and the way she delivers her vocals. Her melodies are perfect. A lot like Drew and his versatility on guitar, she seems to be able to lend her voice to anything and adapt her sound perfectly to whatever the song requires. They make a great partnership. From spitting out a fast paced punk track with a snarl she can go in the completely opposite direction with ease and sing a slow paced ballad with poise, grace and vulnerability. Her multi track harmonies sound amazing. I love it when she pushes her voice at the top end as she does on the track ‘Carnival’ from the latest record. She has a power and a clarity that again, makes me tingle. And despite what one or two other reviewers have suggested, there’s nothing wrong with the way she plays bass either, the fact she’s an established session musician in her own right goes to shooting down any accusations of a perceived inadequacy in that department. Sometimes I really wonder what these   reviewers are listening to when they come out with this crap?

The fact remains though that the magic these two weave together needs a solid foundation, and drummer Al Fletcher provides it. This is a talented bunch of musicians, with a wide and varied repertoire, Al having provided drums on a Grammy award winning reggae album among many other things! His style is tight, concise and dynamic, with a great feel and knowledge enabling him to provide the perfect canvas for Grog and Drew to paint upon. The guy is as solid as a fucking rock. His background may also explain the couple of reggae tinged tracks that appear on their previous record, ‘The World is Too Big For One Lifetime’, which incidentally is an immense piece of work.

You see that’s what sets this band apart. After hearing ‘Opposites..’ I quickly bought all their other albums, and they are all fantastic. But in listening to them, I don’t think I’ve heard any other band show so many influences of others in their music. It’s like they took the best ingredients of everything good you ever heard and made it into their own. Just to give you an idea I’ve been making a note of who I hear in their music at various points of all four albums, and this is how it looks so far, and I stress the so far – Alice In Chains, Nirvana, Soundgarden, RX Bandits, Led Zep, Black Sabbath, Queensrÿche, Danzig, QOTSA, Steve Wilson/Porcupine Tree, The Mars Volta/At the Drive-in, Smashing Pumpkins, Tool, Bjork, The Smiths, Jeff Buckley, Chris Isaak, U2 and any punk band you care to mention. One track even reminds of Hall and fucking Oates! I mean really? Yes really! Look at that fucking list, and these guys are just breaking through after all this time? That’s just what I hear, others will no doubt hear different influences.These three are like the perfect storm, coming together to form a sound that is creative and dynamic, heavy and melodic, original yet classically fucking brilliant. It’s not that they sound like all those bands all of the time, you just hear fleeting moments here and there that sound familiar in one way or another. It’s masterful. They sound like superstars. They should be superstars! Had they been around twenty years ago when the grunge scene really took hold, and maybe had they been from the States and not the UK, they’d be as big as any of those incredible bands who rode that wave. If you didn’t already guess yet, I really, really like this band. For me they are as good as anything I’ve heard in a very long time, and I am mystified how they have pretty much gone unnoticed for so long? It makes no sense to me. I also think if you hear them too, and you can right now by clicking on the vids I’ve provided for you, there is a very good chance that you’re gonna love them just as much as I do!

I’d highly recommend the two most recent albums as a place to begin, ‘The World is Too Big For One Lifetime’ and ‘The Opposites of Light’. But really, start anywhere, you will not go wrong.

Jun 09

The Sounds of Tweet Music – Matt Stevens, Alek Darson and many more…

I’m pretty shit at twitter. Facebook too. I’m getting a little better lately though – coupla fairly major followers in Queens Of The Stone Age (score!) and Tesseract (scored again!) . So it aint all bad. And like I say things have been picking up lately. It’s odd because I don’t really know why? You post the same kinda shit every day and suddenly you have a load of new followers. And not just the ones that quote that inspirational shit. What is it with those? I mean it’s nice and all that but fuck me, they’re everywhere! No, lately I’ve had quite a few new and not so new artists follow me. It’s wicked! I got all this stuff to listen to from bands I would probably have never heard of, or at least not until they’d achieved some kind of success. I love seeking out new music and now it is coming to me! So I wanna tell you about some of it but where to start? I should probably do it in order of ‘follows’, but no actually I’m gonna do it by genre, or more to the truth it’ll be however I feel on any given day, so here goes.

 

Matt Stevens

I’m gonna start with a couple of PROGRESSIVE SOLO GUITARISTS. Ok, so a guy that followed me right when I started tweeting was a fella called Matt Stevens. Part of a band, The Fierce And The Dead, Matt is also an esteemed solo artist. Hailing from North London (my old neck of the woods) Matt has been described as a ‘one man guitar orchestra’. His latest record, ‘Lucid’ is just out and is a meticulously crafted piece of work. The record has everything a great record (in my eyes) always seems to have –  from the hard driving opener of ‘Oxymoron‘ that instantly grabs your attention, to the delicate Crimson-esque fret play of the second track ‘Flow’. In those first two tracks you instantly have a taste of the variety and skill displayed here. And it goes on throughout the entire record. Dipping and soaring from track to track, it is a bit like that famous box of chocolates, you don’t quite know what’ll come next but it’s fine cos you love everything in the box! The final track ‘A Boy’ is a particular favourite of mine but I am a sucker for a well played acoustic – something Matt is renowned for, and likewise ‘The Bridge’, a 12 minute opus that encompasses the various qualities of the entire album, and there are many of them, all in one track!! Lucid is such a well thought out, considered piece of music. You know, I am a huge ZAPPA fan and dotted throughout this record I hear little flashes of the late, great moustachioed one, especially on the slower, more acoustic tracks. They are subtle, but they are there. And Matt’s whole approach to me feels a little Zappa-esque. Everything is very deliberate, there is nothing on the record that has no value in being there. It’s extremely impressive. So really to summarise, if you like progressive guitar music where melody and intricacy abound, where variety is equal to the quality of musicianship,  Matt Stevens’ – ‘Lucid’ is an absolute joy!

 

Matt Stevens – Lucid

 

Alek Darson

By way of some contrast the next artist I want to mention is Alek Darson. Where Matt Stevens subtly caresses and cajoles you into his sonic world of creative mastery, Alek Darson slaps you right around the face from the off and says ‘Oi, look what I got!’ I remember a time when guys that played like this were lauded by the industry. Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and the like were gods of their time when they were putting out records like ‘Flying in a Blue Dream’ and ‘Passion and Warfare’. My brother, an aspiring guitarist back in the day, along with every other wannabe axemeister would hang on every note these guys played, would spend thousands buying the replica Ibanez guitars and would practice morning, noon and night until his fingers bled just to be able to play ‘For The Love of God‘ or ‘Cool #9‘. It’s probably more about me being a little out of touch with this particular style of music now than anything else, but if the virtuoso progressive guitarist is still in vogue, then Alek Darson needs to be at the very top of the ‘I wanna play like him’ list. His EP, ‘Panopticon‘ is a bombastic shredfest of humongous proportion. Exploding open with the first track ‘Sprockets‘ he really doesn’t let off until the final note of the final song, which rather teasingly you have to find yourself hidden within his website. It’s not too hard to find and it’s kinda fun. To me it speaks of the guy’s personality which is also reflected in every one of his tracks. The entire EP is a great piece of music, loaded with incredible guitar playing, and with hints of everybody you ever loved with a six string from Satch, to Jeff Beck to Vai. If you love those guys, you are gonna love Alek, it’s as simple as that. From Belgrade to Berklee College Boston, I suspect Alek’s journey has only really just begun.

 

Alek Darson – Spiral Of Sanity

May 08

What the fuck happened to Country Music?

When Country went from this... to this!

When Country went from this…

 

When I wake up in the morning, the TV in the bedroom goes on. My wife gets up early for work and naturally I get up too, make her lunch, send her off and climb back into bed for another hour (or two). And like i said, the TV goes on. For some reason the default setting for the DVR when it starts up is the CMT channel. I need to change that. It’s like some kind of punishment. For those who don’t know what that is, CMT stands for Country Music Television.

 

...To this!

…To this!

 

Dear Lord!! I had no idea of what country music had become. The other day there was some chisel chinned wannabe cowboy sitting on the back of a pick-up singing about watching the fucking planes land at his local airport. WTF? He really felt motivated to write about that? This morning there was some other mug, although it could easily have been the same talentless Joe from before with his perfectly trimmed 3 day stubble and made to measure Cowboy hat. His voice had been so manipulated by auto tune he sounded like C3PO on meltdown. I was shocked. Well not shocked cos I couldn’t give a fuck, but you know what I mean – it came as a surprise. I mean, I’ve never particularly liked country music, except for The Eagles cos everybody loves the Eagles, but back in the day there was always some kind of musical integrity about it. Stars like Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash were fucking huge because they were original, authentic. Their music was organic, and unique to each of them. It was their story. Fucking auto tune, really? Can you imagine Johnny Cash ever getting near one of those things? It could be argued that he needed it but that’s beside the point. The point is when did Country music ally itself to the likes of Bieber and One poxy Direction? Honestly, this one particular track had more auto tune in it than Miley’s entire body of work! I was extremely surprised to hear it. I really thought country had more about it than that and was still a legitimate genre of music, but apparently it hasn’t and it isn’t (save for the few artists that get overlooked for this crap) and as such goes down in my book as being something I’m even less likely to listen to than fucking hip hop. Believe me, that really is saying something!

Btw, I’ve not posted any videos this time cos they truly suck.

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