THE MIKE DAVIES COLUMN FEBRUARY 2016

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Kidderminster’s Ian Passey aka HUMDRUM EXPRESS returns with his best yet in Copy Cats, a romp along shantyish dose of jangling strummed guitar busker folk with a hint of Merry Hell that pokes the herd mentality rush to “all be alternative together” in the ribs that namechecks Jamie Oliver, the Ramones, Matalan and even Swervedriver, referencing Big Yellow Taxi, taking a swipe at cover acts that need music stands to read the lyrics from along the way and all those who sail on the ship called plagiarism. Grab a copy at www.thehumdrumexpress.bigcartel.com


It’s been a while since I last heard anything by Cradley Heath’s OWEN TROMANS (his 2013 For Haden EP to be precise) but he’s back with a new lo-fi EP, Winter Tape (Sacred Geometry), the chill of the title immediately translated into sonic form with opening track The Neighbourhood Watch, a brooding song of small town rebellion with electronic bird trills, cello and resonant slashes of acoustic and electric guitars. Built around a repetitive, circling motif, Incredible Weapons, a celebration of beauty in the mundane that talks about buying a granary and seeds loaf from the bakery section, is a nod to the band fronted by long-time collaborator Danny Gee.

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A fingerpicked acoustic folk number shadowed by electric guitar rumbles, Child Winter was apparently inspired by an inscription discovered inside writings by the poet – and original Velvet Underground drummer – that read Love to Cinderella’s Mother from Child Winter, prompting this haunted song about home, urban desolation and slow decay. Everything’s stripped back to voice and acoustic guitar for Bonaparte In The Eighties, a resonant and atypically sympathetic story of City broker-types about a social climber soft-skilling himself into the big money in the City, “buying up half of the town” only to feel his soul corrupted by his fraudulence, finding redemption when he’s exposed. It ends with the two part Crown, starting with a spoken narrative about someone planting a Christmas tree upside down in compost at the entrance to a closed down garden centre before sliding into a dreamy guitars and percussion instrumental coda.

Following the seeming demise of The Players, Ocean Colour Scene founding bassist DAMON MINCHELLA and Style Council drummer Steve White have joined forces with Matt Deighton, formerly of soul funk outfit Mother Earth and, more recently, a pastoral folk solo artist, as THE FAMILY SILVER, all three connected by having worked with Paul Weller, Their debut album, Electric Blend (Privilege), surfaced (rather quietly) at the tail end of last year and definitely warrants seeking out by those who like their music sophisticated. Several of the songs were originally destined for Mother Earth prior to their demise in early 2013, so that gives an idea of the area of music we’re talking about, especially given Minchella and White’s musical roots in soul, R&B and jazz, with definite touches of Steely Dan, the Isleys, John Martyn and, inevitably Weller himself. Opening with the smooth late night smoky bluesy soul of Only (From Out of the Ashes), it moves from the similar grooved Peace & Love (Don’t It Feel Good) into the tear it up urgent progressive rock of Give Up Your Tears and back to funky chops on A Newer Yesterday. Ending on a mellow acoustic note with Yeah No, this is music for grown up ears than can appreciate the musicianship in the riffs and grooves, not to mention Deighton’s effortless ability to slide from a malt whisky whisper to a tequila slammer roar.

roots-and-branches.com 2016