Friday, 20 February 2015

Miranda Sykes & Rex Preston, Garstang Unplugged

The Kenlis Arms, which is the venue for Garstang Unplugged, seems to be gaining a reputation as a place worth playing on the UK folk scene. According to Miranda Sykes she heard about it from Philip Henry and Hannah Martin who played to a sell-out crowd there last year. I don't know if it was quite a sell-out last night but there was certainly a good crowd in to see Miranda and Rex Preston.

Support came from young singer songwriter Hayley Collins who played us about half a dozen of her own compositions on the piano including a couple from her Forbidden Fruit EP. One song was described by her as being about the difficult transition from youth to adulthood. As she put it, she's “a bit crap at being an adult,” but she is far from being rubbish on the piano, her style having similarities to Amanda Palmer's keyboard playing in Dresden Dolls and to Daisy Chapman.

Unlike at other venues, there was quite a short gap between the support and the main act. No sooner had Hayley's piano been removed than Miranda and Rex took to the stage. I've seen some footage of them on YouTube with both of them very smartly turned out but Rex was very casually dressed at the Kenlis Arms - perhaps his waistcoat was at the dry cleaners. So they made quite a visual contrast with Miranda smartly dressed while Rex was in jeans with a scarf tied round his neck. Not that this mattered as their musical abilities were well matched with Miranda on her double bass for most of the gig and Rex alternating between mandolin and bouzouki.

In her introduction to the Kate Rusby song 'Old Man Time', Miranda told us about her early days – she started playing bass at the age of eight – and how she found this track on one of her parents' records. This was one of a number of songs written by others which they played, with the name Boo Hewerdine getting a couple of mentions. He contributed two songs to their last album, 'Windowbox' and 'Me and My Sister The Moon', both of which we heard last night.

We were also treated to a number of new songs from their third album which they have titled “Swan Song”. Despite the title, they are not planning on splitting up any time soon which is just as well as they are quite possibly the only double bass and mandolin duo around and are both very proficient players. Miranda has a beautiful voice which you don't really appreciate when she tours with Show of Hands. Talking of whom, she said she hopes to have copies of the new album to sell on the Show of Hands autumn tour.

From the new material played at Garstang I'd say their third album will be worth the wait. They make a very happy looking duo on stage with Miranda having a smile on her face most of the time and there was an amusing incident at the start of their second set. The compere had lowered Rex's microphone to do the mid-set raffle and during their first song after the break Miranda tried to raise the height of the mic by flicking it upwards. There was a certain phallic look to it which caused much laughter both on stage and in the audience.

Other highlights included the Nina Simone classic 'I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free', 'Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight' and 'Sweet Pea/Mean To Me', the latter featuring Miranda on ukulele, which closed their most enjoyable set. And for fans of Philip Henry and Hannah Martin you'll be please to hear that they are returning to Garstang Unplugged in September. I'd advise you to book early!

Friday, 13 February 2015

St Valentine's Day Mix

My last posting on here, about last week's show, has had 29 hits but the show itself has only had 4 hits and one of those was me checking that the "minutes listened to" counter was actually working. I suppose it's a sign of the times that most people only want to see the playlist and whatever else I write about on here rather than listen to the shows. Anyway, I'm not complaining (just a bit confused) - I'll carry on recording and uploading these shows and mixes for as long as promoters want to keep sending me free music. 

So this week it's a mix with no interruptions from me. I've managed to fit in 18 songs in 60 minutes, with some oldies you might recognise and the rest is from recent releases.

Johnny Cash - A Thing Called Love
Annie Keating - Know How To Fall
Rab Noakes - Together Forever
Bruise - Only You
Larkin Poe and Tom Hell - PS I Love You
The Low Countries - Close to my Heart
Karan Casey - Ae Fond Kiss
David Ferrard - I Want To Be With You
Stephen Hudson - She Smells Better Than Petrol
Patsy Matheson - If You Ask Me
Barney Bentall - St Valentine's Day
Peter Nardini - Hug
Slaid Cleaves - Texas Love Song
Dolly Parton - Marry Me
Patricia Morris - Between New Year and Valentine
Jarrod Dickinson - Your Heart Belongs to Me
Janis Joplin - Get It While You Can
Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee - Lovin With A Feeling

The Dolly Parton track is from her album 'Little Sparrow'

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Off The Beaten Tracks 6 February

Some different stuff on the show this week. I've been in the mood for some Grateful Dead so there are tracks from the two albums they released in 1970 - "Workingman's Dead" and "American Beauty". 

Hannah Aldridge is touring the UK in March starting at the Green Note in London on the 3rd. She also playing Cardiff and Southampton. Details on her web site

The track by Show of Hands is from a free download they are offering when you sign up to their email list. It's not just a one track download -  you get a whole album titled "Folk Music". 

A track by Manic Street Preachers whose guitarist and lyricist Richey Edwards disappeared 20 years ago. This song is from their album "Journal for Plague Lovers" which includes lyrics written by Richey which were found after his disappearance. 

From the album "Furthest Branches from the Trunk, a Timbreland Recordings" compilation songs by The Wisemen and Josephine Oniyama. 

Miranda Sykes & Rex Preston are touring this month and play Garstang Unplugged on Thursday the 19th Feb.

Daevid Allen, frontman of the prog-psych-space-jazz fusion group Gong, has announced that he has only six months to live. In a statement, Allen said the cancer for which he had previously been treated has returned and spread to his lung. He said he would not be pursuing further treatment.

Listen to the show at...

The full playlist - 

Grateful Dead - Friend of the Devil
Hannah Aldridge - Strand of Pearls
Show of Hands - John Riley
Manic Street Preachers - Virginia State Epileptic Colony
Juey - Holding On For You
Grateful Dead - Casey Jones
The Wisemen - We Cut Each Other Up
Josephine Oniyama - Ritual To The Grave
First Aid Kit - Emmylou
Richard Thompson - King Henry
Miranda Sykes & Rex Preston - Lady Isobel and the Elf Knight
Grateful Dead - Till The Morning Comes
Gong - Tropical Fish  Selene