mike davies column april 2021


While Guillemots may have been consigned to history, FYFE DANGERFIELD hasn’t been exactly idle in recent years, even if his profile has been more low key. In 2018, he Dangerfield launched his new online channel www.channelsmaychange.com and began broadcasting the Birdwatcher series, a surreal 12 week episodes mix of music, songs, sounds and characters, split into 12 weekly episodes, each put together in frantic real-time in the days ahead of transmission which were available to stream and download for free .

He’s now condensed that into the Birdwatcher EP, six tracks that vary in running time from under two to over ten minutes, experimental and abstract concoctions that incorporate samples, sound effects, white noise, spoken word as well as gentle piano melodies and vocals, such as on Birdwatcher itself, the cosmic ambience of Lying There and the near 11-minute softly and wearily sung Lochinver with its initial fingerpicked acoustic guitar overlaid by synth effects and samples, conjuring in parts thoughts of S&G’s Bookends and others, as the tempo shifts into jazzier textures and horn-embellished New York pop, the ebullience of Billy Joel.

The release also includes Woah! Life, released earlier this year as his first single since 2012, which opening with sparse distant piano and the sound of a baby gurgling, is an echoingly sung, multi-textured widescreen celebration about embracing life in all its chaos and cherishing the fleetingness, rather than fighting it as, birdsong in the mix, he sings “You get one shot at this life/Throw your weight behind its height”.

While unlikely and not designed to restore him to his chart scoring and Brits-nominations status, it’s a reminder that, as composer, creative thinker, singer and instrumentalist, he remains one of our greatest talents.

Twenty years to the day since he released his debut vinyl single, BEN CALVERT marks the anniversary with his 15th release, the psychedelic folk pop of She’ll Go Out Walking In The Rain (Bohemian Jukebox) written in the child-like manner of Syd Barrett and The Incredible String, a celebration of April showers with a nod to lockdown as he sings “Oh, if you ever find you’re stuck inside again, just think about the girl who walks out in the rain/And if you ever feel like life’s returned to sane, just think of all the cartoon people in your brain.” It’s paired with the heavily strummed He Sends His Regards which, while evoking the same era, hews more to The Smiths.

Recently featured on Brum Radio, a car engineer by day, NATASHA NICOLE used to be singer and drummer with Wolverhampton’s Jump The Shark, an energetic indie outfit that stirred together influences from Hendrix, The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac. She’s no gone solo and launched a very different style with her debut single Alright In The End, a relaxed and warm laid back slice of late night acoustic dreamy soul with lush orchestration as, inspired by having experienced depression, as she sings “go home…kick back….cut yourself some slack….you don’t need to carry this load alone…’ If you were looking for touchstones then Jackie Trent from the late 60s or, more contemporary, Emili Sande might be good places to start


A well-established blues rock singer from Wolverhampton now based in Birmingham, REBECCA DOWNEShas made the best of lockdown to record with Stripped Back (MadHat) which, accompanied by Steve Birkett, find her reworking of numbers from her two previous studio albums, 2019’s More Sinner Than Saint and 2016’s Believe in a pared down slow burn blues and soul manner. Opening with handclapping Marin Gaye groove of Take Me Higher, it includes the piano-based Screaming Your Name, the undulating Latin rhythms of Hurts featuring Nigel Darvil on Hammond, Birkett sharing lead on Wave Them Goodbye, the Spanish guitar accompanied late night sway of Sailing On A Pool Of Tears and the crunchier, sax-fuelled power of Believe.

There’s also two brand new numbers, the moody bass anchored Blues For Us and, featuring some fine electric guitar work, the slightly poppier blues sensibilities of Washing All Over My Heart. She’s deservedly won several UK Best Female Blues Vocalist awards in the past few years. On the basis of this album, she’s due some international ones too.

roots-and-branches.com 2020