the mike davies column september 2018

simon fox

Although none of the members go by their real names, INDEPENDENT COUNTRY features Simon Fox, formerly of World of Fox, and The True Adventures of…(Howdy Bab) is their second collection of indie hits given a country makeover. It’s inspired stuff, even if, at times, they sometimes bend the melodies to fit the remodelling. Case in point is a brilliang reworking of hit I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor to a Johnny Cash jug and that distinctive bass riff from These Boots Are Made For Walking. Likewise, The Smiths’ William, It Was Really Nothing is reborn a la twangy Ghost Riders in the Sky guitars and drawled vocals. Elsewhere, Pulp’s are Do You Remember The First Time? Becomes a slow waltzing ballad with a big chorus rush, The Boo Radleys’ Wake Up Boo! is a risky lap steel romp and Jesus Jones’ International Bright Young Thingbecomes a handclapping barroom line dance number. Primal Scream get two bites with a rowdy southern country rocker Come Together and a country blues boogie tale on Rocks while You Made Me Realise gives My Bloody Valentine a Gin Blossoms treatment, the Inspiral Carpets This Is How It swaps euphoria for strung out melancholia and Pop Will Eat Itself’s alt dance track Def Con One mutates into a fiddle-driven bluegrass stomp with The Girl With The Loneliest Eyes, a ballad sway from House of Love marries banjo to a hint of Beatles. Terrific stuff.


A ‘quirky folk popist’ singer-songwriter as well as Brum Radio presenter, TOM PEEL has put together an ironically titled  Greatest Hits downloads only album (a reimaging of his original Greatest Hits release) that sees him joining forces with a variety of other locals acts for a collection of his more popular tunes.

It opens with This Could All Still Work Out reimagined by kindred spirits The Bank Account giving it a vague rocksteady beat before collapsing into a brief burst of sonic chaos, as indeed does Salt and Pepper, an initially deceptive folksy blues featuring fingerpicker blues guitarist Amit Dattani, albeit his guitar well back in the mix.

Multi-instrumentalist Andrew Souter features on two tracks, the bontempi organ accompanied I Hope You Still Listen to Joanna Newsom and, the more readily accessible sprightly ISB-flavoured folk of I’m Pretty Sure It’s Something To Do With The Moon.

The first of the three strongest numbers has him duetting with rising star Katherine Priddy on the playful Ring Ring Ring, the second being The Pier with Boat To Row, Michael King on vocals for a gentle lapping waves pastoral folk number again redolent ISB that closes with Zia Hashmi on tabla drums. That same influence percolates the churchy organ-backed intro to If I Fail before (though I suspect it’s actually titled If I Fall) before it transforms into a lively calypso on which he’s backed by Goodnight Lenin.

There’s more whimsy on I Love It In Town Hall When You Give Me A Squeeze featuring Mikey (Maloney), while the remaining numbers include contributions from Victories At Sea (What It Was And How We Were), Anna Palmer (Timidity In The Swing of a Hammock That Was Mexican), the now defunct Them Wolves (a raspingly sung When I Die with distorted guitar), Grand Valise and John Napier (Laura Half French) and, featuring Various Brummies including shouts recorded at an OXJAM gig and driven by Souter’s drums, the infectious psychfolk calypso Sometimes I Want Bad Things To Happen. It’s available for a snip at £200 on Bandcamp.


R JOHN WEBB steps away from his role as frontman for Rhino & The Ranters to reveal his Dylanish folk side, wailing harmonica introducing the strummed, march beat, echoey sung These Strings of the Old Guitar and broken relationship taster for his forthcoming solo album which, if it measures up to this, should be pretty fine.

of  kings

Stourbridge heroes in waiting, OF KINGS AND CAPTAINS release the download only We Have History, an album of acoustic version of numbers from their Make It Easy album and Give Em Hell Son EP. That said, it actually opens with, So Bad, a catchy new number that channels the spirit of Miles Hunt before moving on to a folksy fingerpicked reading of Gossip off the debut with its descending chords and breathily urgent delivery by Luke Wassell. The album also contributes Maybe Just OK, Matters To Me, Takes All Night and Don’t Let Me Down while all the EP tracks are reworked,  Ain’t Got The Heart with its Who undertones, Get Even, the rousing Jack My Boy, Hold On (stripped down from its stadium aspiration to a more intimate setting) and the choppy rhythms of When You’re Gone, retitled in suitably Black Country fashion as When Yam Gone. There’s not many acts whose music can not only survive being naked but sport a whole new set of muscles. These can.


Stronger than ever after four decades, THE NIGHTINGALES return with Perish The Thought (Tiny Global), their ninth full-length album, that, released next month abd featuring contributions from Faust keyboard player Hans-Joachim Irmler and Lovely Eggs singer Holly Blackwell , finds them as uncompromising and ambitious as ever without alienating those who might be discovering them for the first time.

Hinting at Gabriel’s Jeux San Frontiers, they open with Wrong Headed Man before the distortion and feedback give way to a trademark tumbling and loping rhythm scoured by fuzzed guitars and Robert Lloyd’s swaggery vocals. The World And His Wife tales things up to a driving rock drone with vocal yelps and a relentless driving rhythm that spills over into the semi-spoken Enemy of Promise where, as on Big Zero At The Bone, the Captain Beefheart influence makes its presence felt.


Things get funkier with the Talking Heads-like r&b shapes of Chaff while Big Dave is a sort of pagan folk stomp on uppers and Lucky Dip echoes Iggy circa The Passenger before winding up on the six minute It Is with its brutalist guitar, thundering drums and clouds of ethereal echoey vocals offsetting Lloyd’s race for your life delivery. The urgency never lets up throughout the album and you get to the end battered and exhausted, but like the musical equivalent of white water rafting, the experience is well worth it.

andy album

Having regularly played around the area for a while, Birmingham-based singer-songwriter ANDY JENKINS recently released his second album, Futureproof, an easy on the ear set of melodic folksy tinged pop. Opening in foot-tapping form with Deep End (his voice slightly reminiscent o Gerry Rafferty), it’s balances musically upbeat numbers like the boogie stomp of Bare Bones and the keys-driven bluesy Beatles-ish rocker Alaska with slower material such as the orchestrated Spring Song which summons Moody Blues thoughts, the jazzy swing of Eton Mess and the balladry of the shimmery Unconditional, a Van Morrison-like Getaway and the folk-pop No Angel with its lyrics about how you have to rely on yourself and the helping hand of others rather than expect some messenger from the clouds to come and show you the truth.

A regular on the live circuit, it seems to have taken forever for KATHERINE PRIDDY to finally release her debut EP. The wait is over with the arrival of the self-released Wolf, a four-track set of self-penned traditional folk-styled material that showcases her delicate vocals and emotional depth and such influences as Nick Drake and Tuung.

The title track is up first, a dark edged love song with strings and Simon Weaver on electric guitar with bodhran and Irish tin whistle adding fulsome colours as its gathers to a head. The equally lyrically shadowed Ring O’ Roses follows, wafted in on an ethereal breeze of moody acoustic guitar and wordless backing vocals before Priddy’s whispery, gossamer voice arrives and Weaver’s percussion builds a mist rising from the hills ambience.

Boat To Row’s Michael King providing strummed guitar, Fragile is a dreamy love song that again sports a Gaelic hue, the EP rounding off with the lullabyingly lovely The Old Tree, a pastoral slow waltzer about finding the light you need to find your way shining from the open door right in front of you. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take as long for a full album.

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