the mike davies column november 2018

UB40 - 'Moonlight Lover' - single sleeve artwork

Next year, UB40 celebrate their 40th anniversary, to which end they (or at least the Robin Campbell version) are releasing a new album, ‘For The Many’. As a taster, they’ve just put out their first new single in six years, ‘Moonlight Lover’, an upbeat reggae shuffle with Norman Hassan on lead for the first time and featuring toasting from homegrown rapper Gilly G. Those who invest in the Pledge Music support campaign can also get their hands on the ‘Gravy Train’ EP featuring another classic sounding track that will feature on the album alongside a dub version and also ‘Good Vibes’ with New Zealand reggae crew House of Shem (featuring the last recording by founder member Carl Perkins) which is likely to appear on the ‘Bigga Badda Riddim’ collaboration released alongside the main album.


Also marking their 40th, while they may have, allegedly, played their last live show, DANGEROUS GIRLS are far from retired. Now featuring original members Rob Peters, Mykocupa and Chris Ames alongside Micky Harris and Jake Simmons, they’ve re-recorded many of the songs from way back then and are in the process of putting together an album for 2019, heralded by a limited edition (100 copies) 10" vinyl EP of ‘Dangerous Girls’, ‘Down On The File’ and the staccato jab of ‘Lying Toad’, available initially only from their Dangerous Girls Reunited Facebook page.

Comprising Adam (dreads) and Simon (beard) Heath on the frontline, playing mandolin and guitar, respectively, Karl Smart in fiddle, Becky Walker on sax, bassist Saul Hillier and drummer Charlie Smith, HIGH HORSES are a musically ferocious Birmingham alt-country outfit, their debut album, Wade in The Shallows, having just been released. Kicking off with the mandolin and fiddle intro to ‘Making Graveyards’, it’s a bluesy riff driven affair, Simon’s gravelly rasp wirebrushing the lyrics, Walker blowing a gutsy sax solo mid-way while the drums continue to pummel. Even if you’ve never seen them play, you can tell they’re a live force of nature, but also have a keen ear for a crowd singalong chorus.

high horses

‘Crossroads’ initially has a slightly, mandolin-led folksier feel, although the drums, fiddle and vocals soon take it off into the Nick Cave Western deserts, Walker’s flute shading the final moments. seeing it out on flute. The title track is particularly strong, plucked mandolin providing the bedrock to its ebb and flow sonic landscape, the musical textures coloured by an a capella midsection before the drums and pulsing bass rumble back in and the sax takes it off into a jam groove that suggests some sort of fusion of the Grateful Dead and Blurt.

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A lurching sweat and alcohol stained blues, ‘Waiting So Long’ juggles a chunky staccato riff with spidery mandolin and haunted fiddle giving it a dark, goth sheen before ‘Trouble On My Mind’ canters down a train chugging rhythm country knees up path that would be familiar to those drinking at the sort of disreputable honky tonks that Johnny Cash might have been seen tumbling out of at dawn.

The longest cut at just over six minutes, ‘Milk’ is a gravelly-voiced, sax-stained funeral march blues to the twin churches of St Waits and St Willard Grant, while elsewhere ‘Ebb Flow’ is another mescal-for-blood urgent blast of gospel from hell and the acoustic strum opening of ‘Fire’ gives way to another staccato, punk-sax lurch with a handclapping a capella bridge that might have been taken from a sermon by Robert Mitchum in ‘Night of the Hunter’.

Likewise, after the pared-back echoey voiced intro, ‘I Am One’ morphs into another (relatively) quiet/loud dirty riff-driven full-bloodied assault, the remaining number being the moodily atmospheric and muscular, fiddle and mandolin anchored ‘Blood On The Streets’ that throws into relief such references as 16 Horsepower and the subsequent Wovenhand. Saddle up. 2020