the mike davies column october 2018

merrymaker

Simon Fowler’s Merrymouth folk project may have bitten the dust, but a former member of both that and Ocean Colour Scene, Dan Sealey now heads up MERRYMAKER alongside Adam Barry, Paul McCormack and Hannah Lawson. Unnatural Progression is their debut EP featuring a version of the traditional The Trees They Do Grow High and four originals. Rainclouds has a decidedly Harvest Moon era Neil Young feel to it, but otherwise, with Sealey possessed of a similar early Bee Gees vibrato, the sound’s not dissimilar to Fowler. Evergreen is a soaring orchestral anthem tin praise of, well, evergreens, Midst of Summertime is bouncy fiddle-driven stomp while and the eco-warning The Future Looks Back comes with brass and jazzy woodwind. Hopefully, a full album will be along next year.

harry j

HARRY JORDAN’s back with a new single, a touch of voodoobilly stalking the familiarly driving The Devil’s Been Keeping My Seat Warm with its driving drums, burning guitars and piano runs.

humdrum


Back too is Ian Passey with the latest single from THE HUMDRUM EXPRESS, another dose of playful indie bounce entitled Online Beer Club, here a sort of cod 70s Keith Emerson organ underpinning what the sleeve describes as a contemplation of “the complexities of craft ale and its choosy quaffers.” Pour a glass.

miles

To coincide with a lengthy acoustic tour, MILES HUNT went back over his back catalogue to put rehearse a collection of 60 songs, in chronological order, from the two hundred or so he’s written over the past 40 years as variously frontman with the Wonder Stuff’s, solo performer and in his partnership with Erica Nockalls. This in turn has led to a two volume CD release featuring 30 of them, titled The Custodian, as in, according to Tom Robinson, he being the keeper of the songs owned by the people for whom he recorded them.

miles cd

The discs are bookended by two new tracks, Speakeasy, a protest strum about the freedom of speech, was actually the first thing he ever wrote and has remained unreleased until now, and the reflective title track, and in-between you get a mix of hits, albums cuts and rarities, the first up being It’s Not True which was the very first Wonder Stuff single release don their own label. The familiar numbers begin with Unbearable and Give Give Give Me More More More, sounding no less aggressive than they did in the original forms, though here the latter’s Who influences are more apparent.

Moving on to Hup, there’s Can’t Shape Up and Them Big Oak Trees before a giddy bounce through the first of their Top 5 hits, Size of a Cow, the original hoedown feel now with a more staccato approach. That appeared on their most successful album, The Top charting Never Loved Elvis, as did Caught In My Shadow and Maybe (on which he sings about writing a book, which, of course he went on to do, three times). Construction For The Modern Idiot yields four choices, kicking off with a far more introspective reading of On The Ropes and proceeding through Sing The Absurd, I Think I Must Have Had Something Really Useful To Say (which has a vague Springsteen feel) and the Dylanish Room 512, All The News That’s Fit To Print, the latter two of which only appeared on the bonus track edition.

Fixer and Fits and Starts both come from the underrated post-WS 1996 project Vent 414.

Switching to Vol 2, the album kicks off with Everything is Not Okay, from his 1999 solo album, Hairy On The Inside, later reprised for The Miles Hunt Club from which also comes Flapping On The Pier. On then to the 2005 Wonder Stuff reunion album, and its disillusion with the UK title song Escape From Rubbish Island and Was I Meant To Be Sorry. The following year’s Suspended By Stars yields Tricks of the Trade and a chugging We Hold Each Other Up. The first album with Erica, 2007’s Not An Exit, brings Falsified, while Were You There? comes from their second, Catching More Than We Miss. It’s back, then, to the Stuffies songbook and Oh No It’s …The Wonder Stuff for Steady As You Go and Right Side of the Turf.

Another one for the collectors, You Cannot Go Back (To Once Upon A Time) appeared on Volumes, a various artists collection that also featured Wayne Hussey, Ricky Warwick and Erica. 30 Goes Around The Sun was the last Wonder Stuff album to date and from that he’s picked out Don’t You Ever and Good Deeds and Highs, coming up to date with The Sweetest of Bitterest Ends from last year’s Miles and Erica album We Came Here To Work.

It’s an impressive set, all the more so given that, even when removed from the often noisy and urgent band arrangements, the songs are not only not diminished, but in many cases, they’re even stronger, testament to the oft overlooked fact that Hunt has proven one of the finest songwriters of his generation.

coast

Birmingham indie five piece COAST TO COAST trail their forthcoming EP, The World Doesn’t Work, with the guitar ripped single The Sun Is Dim, a number they describe as the battle with mental health when you question whether your good enough and if life is worth living, even though, to others, you seem perfectly fine. Comparisons have been made to Fatherson and Lower Than Atlantis, which work for me.

Hailing from Birmingham, CHRISTIE REEVES is a new name looking to make an impression on the folk pop scene, following debut release Temptation with her new single, Salt Water, both of which point to a very clear Stevie Nicks influence – with a ukulele. Check out her videos on www.christiereeves.com/about

roots-and-branches.com 2018