the mike davies column july 2018

pete williams

A founding member of both Dexys and The Bureau, PETE WILLIAMS releases his third solo album, H.O.L.L.A.N.D., at the end of the month. First up is a taster in the form of the single Wild Whispers (Baseheart), a marching beat stomp driving the verses while the chorus has an airy, whispery form in a celebration of the invigorating effect of being out in the wild heart of nature.

simon fox

Previously the driving force of Grover, Lonesome Fox, World of Fox and noise trio Kendo Nagasaki, Simon Fox is currently fronting INDEPENDENT COUNTRY, an outfit that puts a country spin on indie hits. Following up 2016’s debut, Trailerparklife, August sees the release of The True Adventures of Independent Country, this time round featuring numbers from the likes of The Smiths, Inspiral Carpets, Pop Will Eat Itself and Pulp. It’s trailed by a single release of The Boo Radley’s 1995 hit Wake Up Boo given a Johnny Cash rhythm, some rockabilly guitar and an alt country rocking groove which, in tandem with a promo sampler that re-imagines The Arctic Monkeys’ I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor through the filter of These Boots Are Made For Walking, bodes well for the full collection.

we are muffy cover

Based in Cornwall they may be, but WE ARE MUFFY have a strong local connection in Nick Duffy from The Lilac Time who, in collaboration with fellow ex-pat Brummie Angeline Morrison, has put together The Charcoal Pool (Tapete), a debut album that variously draws on such influences as the Incredible String Band, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Sam Cooke, Max Romeo and Shirley & Dolly Collins with instrumentation that includes lyre, autoharp, trumpet, banjo music box, cutlery, bottle tops and broken china.


Mining memories of their home city, it’s a musically and lyrically whimsical affair that opens with the chugging ska-like rhythm of Civil Service, a Caribbean influence that also surfaces in more obvious form with Jacobean Reggae that blends dub with leafy folk. Trad folk seamed with brass percolates Precious Things while Frosted Candy, the first on which Morrison sings lead, is a 60s hued adolescent girl’s love song to the joys and mysteries of the makeup counter down the local chemists. She also weaves a psychedelic cobweb over the brooding and moodily atmospheric glockenspiel-tinted title track that has As much a hint of Billie Holiday to its DNA as it does the Collins sisters, the pair trading verses on the equally spidery, hand percussion dappled Unsuitable Footwear.

Elsewhere, Milk Bar has a specific local reference in being a portrait of life on the furthest reaches of the 56 bus route, back when Spaghetti Junction was still coffee cup rings on a map, the same hinterlands, 14 stops from the city centre, being the subject of the spooked, woodwind-coloured and jazzed Outskirts with its reference to smoking Menthol Consulates two Cortinas on the drive, and the cat brining in a dead pigeon that’s duly wrapped in a towel and put in the coalhouse.

Accompanied by what sounds like a wheezing pump organ The Map and the Light is a sort of minimalist lullaby, the 33-second Black Attracts Heat a slightly more folk-jazz diversion, while Strange Admixture, another Morrison showcase, is a languid summery haze that oddly reminds me of You Only Live Twice. It concludes with the childhood memories of the violin drone backed Coloured Pencils and, back to the spare folk template with a simple acoustic guitar pattern, the softly crooned The Lost Carpenter. Perhaps best described as avant-bucolic, it’s a hypnotically alluring affair. 2020