mike davies column - may 2020

Singer Natalie Jenkins and multi-instrumentalist James Attwood are HUNGER MOON, an acoustic folksy-pop Wolverhampton duo whose latest single, Patience (available at Bandcamp) is described by Jenkins as an introspective documentation of her own feelings towards the end of a relationship and friendship that had played a big part in her life. Starting of softly with just sparse guitar it gathers in musical intensity as it goes, her vocals transitioning from hushed fragility to a soaring peak before the track finally ebbs away on a solitary piano note. They’ve several tracks available, including last year’s single, Honey, and a live version of Patience from 2018.

josie field

Formerly from Johannesburg, but now based in the West Mids, JOSIE FIELDhas a rather fine single release in Regardless, hand percussion and ruminative electric guitar creating a laid back mood on a blues-tinged love me for all my faults song that conjures a meeting of Joan Armatrading, Norah Jones and early Joni.

stylusboy

Steve Jones aka Coventry-based STYLUSBOY has released a live download album Live In The Basement (from Bandcamp) recorded last November at the Temperance Cafe in Leamington Spa, a six-track one man and a guitar collection of numbers three of which featured on the earlier live Out Upon The Ocean EP and all of which subsequently appeared on the Routes album. He opens with This Is Where I Belong and works his way through Out Upon The Ocean, Keep you, Embrace The View, Ride This Storm and The Souls of My Brothers. It’s excellent, relaxed stuff, often hinting to his Paul Simon influence (especially on Ride This Storm which nods to Crazy Love off Graceland) and the download comes with a bonus five tracks (though it doesn’t say which) recorded live with the full band at the Routes launch last September in Coventry and featuring Wes Finch on electric guitar and John Parker on double bass. Well worth the money especially as 10% goes to Carriers of Hope who support vulnerable families in Coventry.

DAVID BENJAMIN BLOWER has been busy with the release of Apocalyptic Lockdown Blues (again via Bandcamp), a four track (although Song of Zoe is just one minute of birdsong) response to the lockdown that opens with The World Is A Reed Flute, single piano notes introducing a rippling acoustic guitar riff on a simple call to be still and to “Listen to the hum of All Things” and “Feel the longing reach of All Things “ because “The world is a reed flute/And God does breathe through it”. The title track’s up next, nearing eight minutes as, sounding somewhere between The Streets and Beans On Toast he sings about “Staring out of window…wearing these same clothes for days/Stuck here in a room/Humming with the drone”, a song abou “this sabbath of griefs” where “all of the nurses/And doctors are working/With their gaze down the barrel of a gun” and “we’re all a groaning out of windows for the dear ones lost/And we’re all torn between the laughter/And incalculable cost”, but as “a paradise…with birdsong-echo in the streets but also seeing “this strange hiatus/In all of the racing that we do” as a chance to appreciate the world “revealed/With birdsong-echo in the streets” and where “the animals all wander the streets/Where all our scurrying feet/Used to come and go”. And a cautionary reminder that “Behind all that vexes is a beast that waits behind the door/His name is Business As Usual/And he wants it all/Back the way it was before” while he reckons that “It’s time we forgave all our debts/It’s time for the clocks to reset/And call a jubilee/For you and for me”.

The biblical elements there also echo more loudly in both the imagery and language of the semi-spoken eight minute Forty Days and Nights, the title a reference to the temptation and trial in the wilderness, as he preaches that “the truth shall not be found in sound and fury/But only in the silence between the quietness of your breathing” before the three and a half minute piano and drone playout.

Four-Against-Fate

THE NIGHTINGALES continue on their unique, individual and idiosyncratic way with Four Against Fate (Tiny Global), recorded last year in Germany and featuring frontman Robert Lloyd alongside bassist Andreas Schmid, drummer Fliss Kitson and guitarist James Smith with Kate Armitage guesting on sax, it opens with Kitson’s vocals on the tempo shifting thump punk glam Thicko Rides Again before a cough leads into the brisk urgency of The Top Shelf and, cow bells (?) akimbo, what, in the Nightingales world passes as a ballad, Neverender. In relative terms, the slurring drum tumbling stomp of Wicked Winter is positively commercial before trademark loose-limbed bass returns for the angular punk of Then I Felt.

Sounding positively invigorated throughout, this is one of their most immediate and, dare I say it, accessible album in some years, further highlights including the vocal cut and thrust of The End Began Somewhere, the ridiculously catchy twangsome rockabilly-derived Devil’s Due, the jumbled cacophony of the Kitson spoken Everything, Everywhere, All Of The Time, reverb fuzz glam stomp The Other Side which has an air of a disreputable OMD about it and five-minute strobe rhythm juggernaut sway album closer The Desperate Quartet which, described as “a medieval war march and the anthem of looming apocalypse” is overrun half way in by special guests American classical musician Clara Kebabian’s violin and double bass by Mark Bedford of Madness. Fate never stood a chance,

roots-and-branches.com 2019