Archive | June 2011

soundCHECK 103 – June 16th 2011

Not so long ago, Rosie Jones was an ever-present fixture of the local music scene; surprising audiences as much as thrilling them with an acoustic songcraft that belied her years as well as a crystal clear voice that blew a little more mud from the proverbial diamond in the dirt with every breath.

Then she packed her bags for academia and suddenly the local music scene was a little less rich. But it was while at university that the seeds were sewn for Rosie Jones’s new project: Worry Dolls, whose line up is completed by folk-enthusiast Zoe Nicol.

The duo met while at university in Liverpool. “We were both solo artists and Zoe asked me to play in her band, so that’s how we started singing together, explains Rosie. “We started writing together as a side project, but when uni finished we decided to join forces and try being a duo. We took a break from gigging and started writing new material, which we did for the best part of a year. It’s a very equal partnership, neither of us is the lead singer.”

It’s a balanced outlook. And one that shines through in Worry Dolls’ music. Their silken, yet strong voices complement each other effortlessly as they weave in and out of intelligent harmonies. Not in a grandiloquent, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ kind of a way. But in a way that’s understated, refined and gloriously subtle. When they’re at their best, it’s like being wrapped up in a big soft blanket of vocal goodness. Listen and you’ll know what I mean.

Musically, too, they allow plenty of room for the melodies to breathe. It’s thoughtful, considered songwriting; musically beautiful and lyrically adept. Yep, because the duo are also engaging raconteurs, which is pretty much an entry-level requirement for admittance into folk’s enchanting garden. “Zoe is into a lot of lyrical folk music and has always loved storytelling and characters in songs,” explains Rosie. So that’s Worry Doll’s muse, then? Not quite. “I’m more inspired by country and indie and punk music. We’re very different. People think we’re so similar but we’re not at all, we disagree about almost everything! That’s what makes it interesting.”

‘Interesting’ is not the word. Listening to Worry Dolls is like watching shards of shimmering sunlight pierce a grey sky. Their sound cradles optimism in a way that’s not nearly as lame as this sentence suggests. They hint at that same kind of unshakeable likeableness that has propelled little folkers like Mumford And Sons and Laura Marling to the zenith of their profession.

Slim surprise, then, that Worry Dolls are not short of bookings, with a string of London shows booked in the next couple of months as well as a festival appearance in Tunbridge Wells. Are they Devon bound any time? “We definitely want to come back and play soon. A lot of our songs were written in Devon, in my studio in Dolton and on clifftops in Cornwall!”

Let’s hope we don’t have to wait too long.

You can listen to Worry Dolls online by telling your internet to stop here: soundcloud.com/worry-dolls. And don’t pretend you’re too busy. I’ve been watching you.

soundCHECK 102 – June 9th 2011

Why should being homeless matter?

Seasick Steve’s lo-fi blues has captured the zeitgeist and become irrevocably stitched into the fabric of popular culture. Deservedly so. Yet the keenness with which his former-homelessness is associated with his music has reached such chronic proportions that it threatens to trivialise the issue of living on the streets and shift the focus off the very thing that made Seasick Steve famous.

It’s as if society’s rapacious appetite for a rags-to-riches story has cast a shadow over his credibility and talent as a musician. Frankly, what difference does it make whether he used to live in a box or the palatial pad of Lord Sugar? I’m all for giving plaudits to a man-done-good. But the way it’s reported by some is as if those unlucky enough to find themselves without a place to live represent some kind of talent-shy underclass whose miraculous skills should be applauded in a manner normally reserved for a dog that has learnt not to defecate on the posh carpet. It’s the 21st century. Get real.

By now you probably know whether or not you’re attending Goldcoast next weekend. If you are, Seasick Steve is obviously one to catch. Other acts to watch out for are Benjamin Francis Leftwich, Stringer Bessant (of Reef fame) and underrated local folksters Woodford Green. You can hear more of the latter at myspace.com/woodfordgreen.

Elsewhere this week, there’s good news for fans of the kind of rock music that bubbled to the surface in the late 60s and early 70s. A particularly talented new covers band called Roughnecks, whose ranks include Kit Pearce (guitar) as well as ex-Tequila Rocking Bird members Rich Woods (vocals/bass) and Rob Knight Linn (guitar), are playing at The Old Bus Station (formerly The Riverfront Café) in Barnstaple on Friday 10th June. It marks a welcome return for The Riverfront to Barnstaple’s live music circuit. The event is free and music begins from 9pm.

Got any gigs or music news you want mentioned? Email me please: jharper@northdevonjournal.co.uk.