Archive | October 2012

soundCHECK 173 – October 25th 2012

Beverley Knight fans aren’t half in touch with their emotions. Anger mostly.

Apparently soundCHECK upset a small contingent of the popstar’s local fanbase when I wrote of the news that Knight is to light up Barnstaple when she performs at the Christmas lights switch-on event next month. I know this because I received a text message telling me as much from a North Devon promoter (once prolific, now dormant).

“You’ve upset some Beverley Knight fans on my Facebook, apparently you labelled her bland,” pixel-parped my phone’s display.

Now, I don’t even know how to work a Facebooks, let alone why people are using it to vent anger at soundCHECK. But yes, it’s true. I really did say that. Just like I compared Knight’s music to a rainy Sunday. (I can almost hear her fans grinding their teeth to powder with rage.) These comments are not the misguided, ill-conceived, purposely antagonistic word-bullets that some people think them to be. They are statements of fact. The fact that I believe Beverley Knight’s music to be about as sonically invigorating as the hum of a fridge.

That does not mean I have a problem with people who enjoy her music. And it does not mean that I think she’s a bad booking for the Christmas lights switch on. On the contrary, I think she’ll be wonderfully received. She’s the right gal for the job; a coup for the region. (I actually said some quite nice things about Knight. I called her a “starlet” that will “go down well with the masses” and everything.)

My point was that her music stands in stark contrast to what’s being produced by North Devon’s contemporary musicians. And given that this is a column about the contemporary local music scene, it’s not unreasonable to make that point. Knight takes to the stage on The Square in Barnstaple on Thursday 22nd November. I’ll be the one cowering in the shadows. Terrified and weeping.

In happier news, Sons Of Gods (sonsofgods.co.uk) take their strident, salacious guitar-fuzz to The Palladium in Bideford on Saturday 10th November. And best of luck to The Dead Betas (facebook.com/thedeadbetas), who are about to begin their UK tour in support of the legendary Mindless Self Indulgence. No doubt they will slay it.

CONTACT: In a band? Make music? Tell me what you’re up to. Email jharper@northdevonjournal.co.uk or tweet @testforpulse.

soundCHECK 172 – October 18th 2012

They say that business and pleasure should not be mixed. Conjuring maverick disregard for convention this week is North Devon’s flame-haired acoustic firecracker, Scott Xander Linn.

Scott diligently divides his time between standing behind the till in Barnstaple’s indie record shop Solo Music – dispensing nuggets of considered musical wisdom – and penning gritty folk-noir for his burgeoning catalogue of musical material.

Yet on Wednesday (24th October), Solo’s humble quarters will be transformed into a gig venue for the first of two major in-store sessions as fairytale-handsome folk star Seth Lakeman arrives in North Devon for his show at The Queen’s Theatre.

It’s common knowledge that rugged raconteur Lakeman is from the wilds of Dartmoor and that his debut album was self-recorded for less than £300. He honed his musical craft while using his intuitive ear for melody, inventory of folk instruments and wholesome voice to curry favour with a pack of wolves, which would roam the windswept moor looking for a bite to eat. So transfixed were the wolves by Lakeman that they offered to make him their king. Doing his best to let the wolves down gently, Lakeman politely declined and went on to become a chart-bothering musician of international repute, nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in August 2005. Legend has it that on a full-moon, the Dartmoor wolves can be still be heard howling the tune to ‘Kitty Jay’. Haunting. Listen at sethlakeman.co.uk.

The second of Solo’s high-profile in-store sessions sees Ethan Johns visit (Friday 30th November). Johns has mixed and produced records for such luminary names as Kings Of Leon, Laura Marling, The Vaccines, Paolo Nutini, Tom Jones and (one of my favourite bands of all time) The Boxer Rebellion. Expect bittersweet, playful folk-pop overtured by a weathered, engaging voice that at times borders on the Dylan-esque. Listen to ‘Red Rooster Blue’ at ethanjohns.com.

Two massive artists, one tiny venue. How can you resist? Both of the Solo in-store shows are free, so get down early if you want to guarantee your space in the shop’s cosy confines, which could see you pressed up against Leona Lewis in the pop section, or sharing a view with The Beatles by the reissues stand. Oh, and buy something while you’re there, yeah? Although it might be best to wait until after the performances. I’m not sure Seth would take kindly to the ringing of the cash register as he nears the heady climax of one of his emotion-laden folk tales. Lest we forget, this is a man who tamed wolves with his melody, so he deserves your full attention.

So what of Solo employee Scott Xander Linn? Don’t think I’ve forgotten about him. Scott recently released a new acoustic track, produced and mastered by David Huntley. Quite simply, it’s one of the finest songs ever penned by Scott: an articulately told, emotionally redolent tale that tugs on the heartstrings with a morbid yet compelling simplicity. Entitled ‘Some Nights…’, the track has been causing a stir online and has received ringing endorsement from local acoustic success story Small Town Jones. Scott has even tweeted Nancy Sinatra, who has promised to give the track a little listen. She won’t be disappointed. And neither should you be. Listen to ‘Some Nights…’ at soundcloud.com/scottxanderlinn.

Who said that work and play can’t snuggle up together once in a while?