US guitar romantics The Cry! have been pretty quiet the last few years. In fact, it’s been 6 long years since their fantastic sophomore album ‘Dangerous Game’ hit our turntables. Rumour has it, the band has studio time booked in the spring to polish off the follow-up. In the meantime, their illustrious frontman and main songwriter Tommy Ray (Nelsen) is flying the flag releasing tasty rock ‘n’ roll records. Tommy follows up last year’s ‘The Decayed: PDX PUNX’ album with a new long-player entitled ‘First Hits Free’ and what a banger it is.

 

‘First Hits Free’ is a collection of Tommy Ray songs that The Cry! passed on for one reason or another. That’s not to say these songs are substandard, oh no, far from it. These songs follow the same retro, low-slung power pop route of his day job for sure. If you dig the raw and emotional pop punk delivered by the likes of The Speedways and Cyanide Pills on this side of the pond, then watch out boys, as this Portland, Oregon based songwriter has the minerals to mix up the sounds of The Heartbreakers (Thunders, not Petty), The Attractions and The Buzzcocks like the last 40 years never even happened!

Tommy Ray delivers raw and unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll straight from the heart. Opener ‘Ain’t No Use’ fills the speakers with raw guitars, pumping bass and urgent beats, topped off by a tinkling of the ivories, a nonchalant vocal delivery, and a melody to die for. Single ‘Life Goes On’ follows, with its cool Yaffa-like bass rumble, handclaps and irresistible gang vocal you’ll be hooked after the first listen.

Do you miss The Biters already, or are you still shedding a tear over The Exploding Hearts? Well, dry those khol stained eyes, as Tommy Ray has a handful of songs that are just what the doctor ordered. Yes, the production is raw, but it matters not one iota when the songwriting is top-notch and the delivery is sincere and from the heart. You could say songs of broken love and reflection have never sounded so upbeat, but Tommy has that knack, that certain something that makes his songs stand out from the crowd.

‘Hey Suzanne’ is a glorious combination of Costello and Strummer goodness, punk with pop sensibilities, something that not a lot of young songwriters get right. The glam slam 70’s stomp of ‘Voices’ hits in the feels for sure. Gloriously upbeat and as ramshackle as you like, it’s a riot from start to finish, as the singer snarls his way over cool guitar riffs and big beats like Hanoi Rocks in their prime. You will swear you have heard the likes of ‘’Good Love Gone South’ and ‘Trouble’ before, such is the instant feel of the catchy melodies.

 

As a whole the songs on this album make the majority of Tommy Ray’s contemporaries sound dull as dishwater. Who wants to hear a half-arsed, bedraggled Indie boy staring at his shoes recounting how unfair his life is, when Tommy Ray is living his best life like the bastard son of Johnny Thunders and Joe Strummer.

If these are the songs that didn’t make the highly anticipated 3rd album from The Cry! then they should have one hell of a record under their studded leather belts. We await that album with baited breath, but until then bask in the glory that is ‘First Hits Free’, the first great new album you will hear in 2020.

 

Facebook

Bandcamp

Author: Ben Hughes

 

 

 

 

The last 12 months or so Ryan Hamilton has released a critically acclaimed album with his band The Harlequin Ghosts, toured with The Alarm and Blondie’s Clem Burke, and yet he ends the year divorced, battling online bullies and doing a bit of soul searching. What better way to drown his sorrows with a one-off UK Christmas show billed as The Holiday Hoedown.

Miles from Nowhere (or MFN as it is more commonly known) is a biker bar/club literally miles from anywhere in the Nottingham countryside. As we follow the sat nav down a dark and damp country road in the scenic (maybe in daylight) countryside, I do wonder if the postcode is wrong, but lo and behold here we are at a very cool looking venue, several hours before show time to catch up with the man himself for an exclusive interview which you will be able to listen to very soon.

Turns out MFN is owned by former Showaddywaddy drummer Malcolm Allured. Gold and silver discs adorn the walls alongside 50’s and 60’s rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia. It’s pretty cool, but also pretty small. A small kit and a couple of Fender amps are set up near the bar. A tad underwhelmed that the band appears to be playing a pub gig, we grab a drink and a seat. Slowly the bar empties and I wonder if maybe this is not where the band are playing after all.

Turns out we are in the wrong bar! A door at back of the pub leads into a much bigger, proper club sized venue. Shit, this place is an actual tardis of a venue! No wonder the band have returned here for a one off, this is a very cool venue and I’m surprised more bands don’t have this place on their radar. While it may not quite have the size of Nottingham’s iconic Rock City, it certainly has the ‘cool’ factor and bands who maybe aren’t quite big enough for the city centre gig could well find it in their interests to search this place out.

Following bluesy prog 3 piece led by local singer Danny Beardsley and a rather fine set from punky rock ‘n’ rollers Steam Kittens (check ‘em out if you dig the likes of Cyanide Pills and Buzzcocks, I definitely recommend these geezers), Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts take to the stage to great cheers. Gone are the suits, big hats and pigtails of recent shows. Shorn of the locks, sporting John Lennon shades and a tan suit jacket, our favourite Texan troubadour has gone for the casual look. Whether this is a long term image change or just a sidestep for the Hoedown, we will have to wait and see.

Strumming a Martin acoustic picked up during his recent road trip, (from the man who provided guitars for Tom Petty, no less) Ryan and his band get the party started with a one-two from his debut solo album. Opener ‘Be Kind, Rewind’ is a gloriously upbeat power pop delight that incites the first of many crowd sing-a-longs, but it’s the following ‘Smarter’ that takes the party up a notch for sure.

I don’t know if its Ryan’s recent circumstances, the setting, or a combination of both, but there is something extra special about tonight’s performance from the off.

The band are tight as ever, the sound is crystal clear and the crowd are rowdy and up for it. Between songs, the frontman swigs from a bottle of red wine, as he jokes and enjoys banter with the crowd, yet there is understandably a hint of sadness and edginess to the man tonight. Coming straight off a soul searching road trip, the singer is mourning the end of a relationship and going through a period of unexpected change in his life. Playing a bunch of party anthems to his UK fanbase is just the therapy he needs methinks.

The likes of ‘Bottoms Up’, ‘Karaoke With No Crowd’ and the sublime ‘Records & Needles’ should be enough to convince any naysayer in the room that Ryan Hamilton is a match for his peers as a songwriter and an entertainer.

Spangles guitar slinger Ben Marsden is a welcome addition to the band for the first time tonight.  He fits the band like a glove. During an extended and jammed out ‘Oh My God’, Ryan encourages the guitarist to go for it and show us all what he is capable of. Ben needs no further encouragement as he rips out a killer improvised solo, while Ryan grins away watching as he plays. Ryan then explains the story of the song, as the band continue the jam behind him. Another bizarre chapter in his life involving a drug addicted model girlfriend, infidelity and revenge. He may not get the breaks in life, but he has definitely not had a dull one!

The boys in the band take a break, leaving Ryan and Carol Hodge on keyboards to duet on latest single ‘Won’t Stop Now’.  The duo deliver perfect harmonies over the piano led ballad, as a clearly emotional Ryan is literally in tears as he lays his heart on his sleeve for all to see.

Club owner Malc joins the band for an impromptu blues jam, the whole band get presents to open on stage and we even get a new song called ‘Can I Get An Amen’ which is pencilled in for a January single release. It is a very strong song, as instant as anything he has written. Full on Americana with a big band sound and a memorable chorus, that comes on like Springsteen meets The Band. If this is taste of the new music to come, be excited… be very excited.

As Ryan passes the bottle of red into the crowd there is only one thing left to do. End the set on a high. ‘This Is The Sound’ has a new found urgency to it tonight, even more than the recorded version. Mickey’s beats lead the melody into a rousing chorus many of us will be singing late into the night. The band appear to be loving it, the ever smiling Ben, the hard hitting drummer and the animated Rob Lane who pulls more cool poses than a Bulletboys video and throws up and catches more picks than any sunset strip band in their heyday.

Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts ended their year on a high. Tonight was a memorable and triumphant show in a busy venue with a great atmosphere, which is more than many struggling artists could ever hope for. Same time next year then?

It’s no surprise to see ‘This is The Sound’ featuring in so many Albums Of The Year lists and I hope all the hard work sees Ryan get the rewards he rightly deserves. But I’ll leave you with one thought to contemplate. When an artist is down, when they have their backs against the wall, that is when they are at their best. Heartache, loss and pain, this is the stuff that fuels the fires of creation.  Don’t take the phrase ‘tortured artist’ lightly, when a songwriter truly has something to write about, THAT is when they are at their best. Right now Ryan Hamilton could be on the verge of recording the album of his career due to the rocky road he has recently had to travel, and he damn well knows it. 2020 could be a very interesting year indeed for Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts, I look forward to seeing where they take things next.

Author: Ben Hughes

Photo credit to Stephen Curry

 

Tune in to NOiSE! on Jorvik Radio this Sunday between 3-4pm to hear a special one hour show featuring music and chat with Texan singer/songwriter Ryan Hamilton.

Matt and Ben travelled to Nottingham just before Christmas to catch up with Ryan, prior to his Holiday Hoedown show, for an exclusive and intimate chat about the rocky road he has travelled this year. You wanna hear tales of relationship breakdowns, road trips, internet trolls, past band stories and details on new music? You wanna know what Ryan has in store for 2020, or maybe you just wanna know his morning routine? All these questions and more will be answered between a soundtrack from the likes of People On Vacation, Smile Smile and the best of his solo and new band material? Grab a coffee, hit the link at 3pm Sunday 5th January (repeated at the new slot of 6pm on Monday 6th January) and turn up the NOiSE!

 

Jorvik Radio is Yorkshire’s newest community radio station and our very own writer Ben Hughes turms up with his best buddy Matt Seddon to talk about all the cool bands travelling through the North that they think you should be checking out. Their show is called NOiSE! and has been on air for the past 10 weeks, already playing choice, eclectic cuts from the likes of Alabama 3 and Adam Ant, Iggy Pop, The Skints and The Wildhearts, along with interviews and live tracks from The Urban Voodoo Machine’s Paul-Ronney Angel and Boss Caine.

Get your groove on with the sounds of the underground and a weekly pick of the gigs that matter in the North of the country, every Monday 6-7pm with NOiSE! Only on Jorvik Radio 94.8 FM and online at www.jorvikradio.com

 

All previous shows will be archived online shortly, but for now, the only way you can hear us is to tune in LIVE: Here

 

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/noiseradioshow/

https://jorvikradio.com/

RPM will have the review of the Ryan Hamilton Show later this week as we welcome in a new decade.

 

 

 

A lot has happened in the rock ‘n’ roll world in the four years since ‘Blackout States’, the last album from Michael Monroe, hit the shelves. Slash and Duff rejoined Guns n’ Roses and are currently touring the world, The Wildhearts reformed and released their first (and arguably most important) album in ten years. Hell, even former Hanoi Rocks guitar-slinging legend Andy McCoy has beaten his former bandmate to releasing an album in 2019!

But while the wait for ‘One Man Gang’ has been a long one, the delay has been for good reason. Deals were struck and dotted lines signed to secure a record deal, management and build a promotion team to help get this album out where it needs to be heard. A band has to do what a band has to do in these trying times.

I refer to this band as The Monroes, as it has become way more than Michael Monroe the solo artist. Since the addition of former Black Halos man Rich Jones five years ago, this is the most stable line-up Michael Monroe has ever had. With Steve Conte, Karl Rockfist and of course former Hanoi Rocks bandmate Sami Yaffa backing the livewire frontman for 9 years, they have become a world-class live unit to be reckoned with. They have a certain chemistry, whether in the studio or on the stage, that cannot be faked. A gang mentality if you like, and this band possesses it in spades.

 

Recorded in Finland over a 3 week period in March last year, ‘One Man Gang’ was self-produced by Michael, Steve, and Rich, with the assistance of long-time engineer Petri Majuri, and all of the band members contribute to the writing process. As with the previous 3 albums, it has a punchy sound and a crystal clear production that captures and accentuates their killer live delivery.

Preaching his PMA (positive mental attitude), Monroe leads his cohorts through an incendiary, punk fuelled opener. The title track blasts from the speakers with a statement of intent. A tongue twister of a verse delivered with the fury and enthusiasm of a snotty, punk-ass kid. “I was front of the line when they gave out atti-chood!” he drawls in that unmistakable tone. You gotta love him, and the fact that The Damned legend Captain Sensible guests here with some cool guitar, well you just gotta love this song.

Recent single ‘Last Train To Tokyo’ is Monroe’s love letter to a city that he has had a special relationship with since the Hanoi Rocks days. Musically, its familiar territory as Steve Conte’s cool lead guitar refrain stabs over Rich Jones’ ’78 styled, punky riffage. An overly catchy chorus follows a well trodden, glitter-pathed road, recalling old haunts and memories. It’s a good place to be.

 

‘One Man Gang’ is an album choc-a-bloc with punchy rockers, loaded with Yaffa’s pumping bass and the low slung guitars of the formidable duo Conte and Jones. The likes of ‘Junk Planet’ and ‘The Pitfalls Of Being An Outsider’ are sure to be future live favourites.

Former Hanoi Rocks guitarist Nasty Suicide lends his six string prowess to the sonically seductive ‘Wasted Years’. It’s a song that has ‘single’ stamped all over it. There are hints of their former band as Monroe’s bursts of harmonica introduce the verses before another overly catchy chorus takes hold.  Elsewhere, ‘Hollywood Paranoia’ walks the boulevard of broken dreams for sure. With its prominent mariachi horn section and Hanoi-style ‘nearly out of tune’ backing vocals and a chorus that could’ve been pilfered straight from the ‘Not Fakin’ It sessions, ‘Heaven Is A Free State’ a surprise highlight that sees the band explore unchartered territory with great success.

 

 

They take things down momentarily. The balladic ‘Midsummer Nights’ is this album’s ‘Stained Glass Heart’, it’s pretty generic truth be told, and probably the only track that doesn’t really do it for me at this early stage. But the retrospective and contemplative ‘In The Tall Grass’ is much more interesting. The band creates atmosphere with great use of space, as our illustrious singer croons over a silky bass line. The guitars accentuating the vibe nicely in the background before breaking out into a guitar driven chorus, played out over urgent Rockfist beats. Another of many highlights.

 

If you are hoping for something groundbreaking from ‘One Man Gang’ you will be disappointed, but if you desire a high octane, rock ‘n’ roll rollercoaster of a ride, then sit back and buckle down. The Monroes deliver just what the doctor ordered. As the man himself says in the PR bumph “I do what I do and I’ll never change”.

Rock ‘n’ Roll legends are a dying breed. Michael Monroe is a living, breathing example to all aspiring musicians, and at 57 years old shows no sign of slowing down just yet. ‘One Man Gang’ is surely a testament to how having a full dose of PMA can do wonders for a rock ‘n’ roll soul.

Facebook

Buy ‘One Man Gang’ Here 

Author: Ben Hughes

 

Certain people at RPM have been banging on about Leeds punk mob Cyanide Pills for some time now. We dig ‘em and we own all their albums, of course we do. We may even go as far to say they are the natural successors to the likes of The Buzzcocks and even the Ramones. Don’t believe us? Take one listen to the back catalogue and thank us later!

Yet, the only chance we get to catch the elusive mob is at Rebellion or the odd London date. They seem to tour mostly in Europe, and who can blame them. Germany, Spain, Italy…they love the pogo-ing punk rock of Cyanide Pills.

This band have the back catalogue and the live reputation to match, and I was not going to miss the rare chance of catching the spikey oiks on (near to) home turf.

 

First up tonight are LoGOz. They have been doing the rounds for a while now, some recent support slots with the likes of Maid Of Ace and The Bar Stool Preachers have seen them get the word out to a wider audience.

Tonight the four piece band seems to be missing a bass player. It matters not one bit. 2 guitars and drums seem to suffice for the catchy, punk pop the trio deliver. Singer Peesh wears his SG swinging from his knees and delivers his tunes like Billie Joe Armstrong meets Captain Sensible. Which is quite fitting, as they do remind me of mid-nineties Green Day with the quirky vocals of The Toy Dolls.

Short, sharp songs with buckets of energy. The likes of ‘Bones Of Yesterday’ and the topical ‘Anti Social Media’ are instant slabs of pop punk goodness with buzzsaw guitars and great harmonies. They go down well, a great band worth getting down early for.

 

Up next are Gateshead yob rockers Continental Quilts. I don’t know what the singer’s called, but she looks like a Debbie, so we’ll go with that for the sake of argument. Debbie looks like she’s off to a 50’s rock n roll convention with her dirty uncles in their matching baseball jackets and shoes. But looks can be deceptive.

She looks like butter wouldn’t melt, but happens to be a fiery little demon once their set kicks off. This band is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as musically they are trashy as hell and deliver a high energy set. Recent single ‘C’mon Get Back To Gettin’ It On’ is a glorious, glam rock stomper that nods its head to Suzi Quatro or The Sweet. I think they played it twice! And ‘Motor Sicko Fever’ is raw, high energy garage rock at its finest.

Great gang backing vocals and bundles of enthusiasm make the Continental Quilts experience something worth dragging your sorry ass away from the bar for.

Four songs into Cyanide Pills set and singer Phil Privilege (not his real name) has already put his head through the ceiling of The Fulford Arms. Sporting a battered white leather jacket, the singer shakes the plasterboard from his hair, rubs the dust from his eyes and carries on singing ‘Making Her Mind Up’, one of many highlights from a 45 minute thriller of a set. Yes, Cyanide Pills have a clenched fist full of bangers and they deliver the lot at a frantic pace tonight. Seriously, this is an ‘all killer, no filler’ show.

The songs are so short that their 45 minute setlist is scrawled on the back on an old A3 poster. That set mixes up all three albums nicely and there is much to get excited about. ‘I Don’t Remember’ and ‘Alone Tonight’ from last year’s excellent ‘Sliced and Diced’ fit the set like old friends, and ‘Sit Tight’ and ‘I’m Bored’ are full on, high energy Buzzcocks style anthems for a jilted generation.

In biker jackets and skinny jeans, guitarists Alex and Sy point their guitars to the ceiling as they peel off every Thunders lick they know, while new (stand in?) bassist Conor Hussey holds down the low end, looking every inch the Sid Vicious clone he plays in The Sex Pistols Experience.

While the band jerk about like men possessed, their singer nonchalantly swigs from a can of cider and sprays mouthfuls of Dark Fruits in the general direction of the seemingly oblivious bassist and guitarist to his right. Full on, edgy punk rock man!

At other times he’s in the crowd, loving the moment, living the punk rock dream. “Johnny Thunders lived in York!” he shouts, as an introduction to the fabulous ‘Johnny Thunders Lived In Leeds’. It’s a song that is as cool as the title suggests it should be. One of many set highlights along with the topical ‘Government’, with its “robbing me blind” refrain, and the sublime ‘Suicide Bomber’, surely one of the greatest punk rock songs of modern times.

 

Forget buying a ticket to see Green Day in an enormodome. This is where true punk rock is at people. As we always say, the smaller and more intimate, the better. This is where the likes of Green Day started anyway, the sort of venue where they learnt their trade. The sort of venue where you can see the whites of their eyes, feel the sweat as it splashes against your own drenched t shirt, and feel the blood rush through your veins as the power of yet another classic anthem beats through your chest.

Cyanide Pills left their mark on The Fulford Arms both physically and mentally tonight. They are arguably the best punk rock band in the UK right now, and I would pay good money to see them any day of the week. In fact, I like them so much I might just move to Germany in the hope of catching them live more often.

 

Author: Ben Hughes

Facebook

Following the recent news of an upcoming ‘best of’ package and vinyl re-issues of four classic albums, Sweden’s finest purveyors of glam slam boogie the Diamond Dogs are back with a new long-player of brand new music to whet the appetite.

It seems you can’t keep a good band down, and four years after they called it quits, following the tragic death of saxophonist Magic Gunnarsson, original members Sulo and keyboard player Henrik “Honk” Widen decided it was time to get the band back together. Joining the duo are long-serving guitarist Lars Karlsson, fellow guitarist Martin Thomander, bassist Stefan Bellnas and Thomas Broman on the drums.

While a revolving door of band members has come and gone over the years, the sound remains the same. Let’s just say, if you dig the cool as you like vintage rock ‘n’ roll of The Faces meets The Stones, then grab a Jack & Coke, drop the needle and sit back and enjoy!

 

Now, when I say new music, all is not quite as it seems. If you were to purchase this album on vinyl then you could say side A is Diamond Dogs originals; recalling their rock ‘n’ roll roots. And then side B is their own tribute to Soul legend Sam Cooke; six cover versions of classic cuts from the Soul singer, reinterpreted in their own classic style.

While their last few studio albums have been a bit patchy, this is a banger of an album from start to finish. Their trademark rock ‘n’ roll shuffles bring to mind a golden age of early 70’s British rock. Anyone from The Stones, Slade and Quo comes to mind at any given moment. You know the score.

 

Opening song ‘Recall Rock ‘n’ Roll’ sets the bar high from the off and sees singer Sulo in introspective mood as the band fire on all cylinders behind him. “Let’s turn back time and make it roll!” he suggests before blasting into a euphoric chorus. The likes of ‘Valentina (Queen Of Broken Hearts)’ and ‘Heavy Swing’ have that classic Sulo chorus refrains in abundance. High energy rock ‘n’ roll, with a tinkling of the ivories and key changes that takes it up nicely to the climax. No one does Mott meets The Faces better.

There’s a hint of sadness to the soulful balladry that ‘Singin’ With Elvis’ brings to the table. Sulo reminisces about times gone by and the ghosts of the past. “I walk down the street where we all used to meet, but it was all dark and quiet” he sings in an almost broken rasp. Swathes of Hammond organ and great, Stones inspired backing harmonies make this essential Dogs material.

The uber-cool ‘There Is A Fire Down There’ has a Black Crowes swagger, with trademark killer backing vocals and a wild n’ crazy slide guitar solo. No one does rock ‘n’ roll rapture quite like the Diamond Dogs do these days.

 

The album is split down the middle by ‘Soul Folks’, a re-recording of a Sulo original that first appeared on his album ‘Hear Me Out’. Sulo’s own tribute to his soul hero that actually comes across like an Exile-era Stones outtake. Cracking stuff indeed.

Now, the Sam Cooke side of things includes a bunch of guests. First up, we have Quireboys frontman Spike lending his gravelly tones to the good time rock ‘n’ roll of ‘Good Times’. Handclaps, sax and heavenly, female backing vocals bring the soul and help get the party started.

The good time boogie of ‘Don’t Fight it, Feel It’ and the 12 bar blues stomp of ‘Somebody Have Mercy’ are delivered in fine Diamond Dogs style, you wouldn’t even guess they were old Soul songs on first listen.

They breathe new life into ‘Keep Movin’ On’. Faster and more uplifting, that killer chorus introduces a song that sounds like it has always been in your head. Hellacopters main man Nicke Andersson adds his dulcet tones to this banger.

Thunder frontman Danny Bowes duets with Sulo on ‘Nothing Can Change This Love’. With the lyrical sentiment and the sparse musicianship, it retains the soulful feel of the original, but it’s given the Diamond Dogs treatment.  A rendition that sounds like it was recorded 50 years ago, not six months ago.

‘Sugar Dumpling’ closes the album and is my favourite of these cover versions. Featuring Swedish rapper Papa Dee, they take to another level entirely. To me, it comes on like The Dave Clarke Five meets The Archies, classic 60’s pop and a surprise finale. What a tune!

 

‘Recall Rock ‘n’ Roll And The Magic Soul’ will not only satisfy Diamond Dogs fan who have been craving more material, it will also remind those who forgot exactly why we missed them in the first place.

Ok, so it may not be an album full of original material. But as the title suggests, this new album is a throwback to the roots and the influences of what made Diamond Dogs one of Sweden’s greatest musical exports. And that is something we should all celebrate.

Facebook

Buy The Album Here

Author: Ben Hughes

If you feel, as I do, that ‘Tenderness’ is one of the best albums of the year, then this European tour (including just three UK dates) from Duff McKagan is an essential event. Why? Well, the band that Shooter Jennings has behind him, the cool cats who helped lay down the album, are a fuckin’ machine! These guys are so tight live you couldn’t wedge a sheet of paper between them.

Imagine The Band, The Stones at their peak, or even early 90’s The Black Crowes. It’s no coincidence that Duff hooked up with his long time friend Shooter and his band to sprinkle magic on a rootsy, laid back record full of emotion, and for want of a better word… tenderness.

On this tour, the band will be doing 2 sets every night. I’ve seen them do this before, at an album release show for Hellbound Glory at The Whisky-A-Go-Go a couple of years ago. First, they are opening with Shooter, then a full set with Duff. Who knows if they will do this again? This could be the only tour these guys do, and even though the tickets were a hefty £40, I felt it was an experience that I could not miss.

Academy 3 apparently holds 950 punters, although it certainly looks smaller. It is dark, rectangular and has a great atmosphere. You could call this an intimate show for a man who has been playing stadiums with Guns n’ Roses. But for Shooter Jennings and his band, this is probably about average.

The band open with ‘Bound Ta Git Down’, a boogie-woogie, barroom blast. The ever cool Shooter, shades permanently glued to his head, tinkles some ivories as his band jam out behind him.

The likes of ‘Denim & Diamonds’ and the epic ‘All This Could’ve Been Yours’ build on piano and mournful fiddle courtesy of Aubrey Richmond. You almost forget that bad ass bassist Ted Russell Kamp and guitarist John Schreffler Jr are there until it’s time for the guitar solo, then the pair take centre stage to shine. The rhythm section of Russell Kamp and powerhouse drummer Jamie Douglass are surely one of the best in the business and keep it all together. Pure, laid back 70’s rock ‘n’ roll at its finest, these songs are far removed from the rootsy, country that Shooter may well be known for.

The Guns n’ Roses fan base lap it up. Maybe the band intentionally chose a more rock ‘n’ roll based set for this tour, but the likes of ‘Steady At The Wheel’ and the grungy, riff heavy ‘Don’t Feed The Animals’ certainly bring the rock tonight. Aubrey and Shooter bring the sentiment and duet on a few of the more balladic numbers, but hell, this band are even better than I remember them being a couple of years back.

 

It’s packed by the time the band return to the stage with Duff at the helm. Dressed in black shirt and jeans, his tousled blonde hair framing his weathered face to perfection, Duff looks every inch the LA rock star. He plays a low slung acoustic for the majority of the set. As Shooter plays the opening piano chords to Gn’R’s ‘You Aint The First’ Duff asks us of we are ready to sing. The response is a resounding yes!

Having never seen him with Loaded live, I must say being the frontman comes naturally to Duff. He cracks jokes and swigs from a flask between songs. Laid bare on these emotionally charged tunes, his gravelly tones are spot on.

The ebb and flow of the set is perfect. A carefully chosen set mixes up mainly album cuts with ‘Use Your Illusions’ era Guns tunes and a few choice covers. The sound is fantastic; we can hear every word, every breath.

The countrified, hickey ‘Breaking Rocks’ is suitably ramshackle, Shooter takes a verse and shares vocals harmonies on the chorus, lap steel guitar and fiddle give a proper authentic feel.

As Shooter plays the piano refrain to ‘Tenderness’, Duff explains the idea behind the songs with passion and creates a feeling of camaraderie with his audience. It’s a beautiful moment and the crowd are deadly silent as he sings the verses, just with piano accompaniment, his voice on the edge of breaking, the vulnerability shining through.  At that very moment, this gig has become the gig of the year for me. In this setting, with this band, these songs give so much. I must admit to being blown away. “C’mon Manchester!” Duff shouts as we sing the chorus in unison, the euphoria builds to a crescendo. So, so good.

I mentioned the ebb and flow. The Stonesy rock ‘n’ roll vibes of ‘Chip Away’ follows , Hammond organs play out as Duff dedicates ‘Feel’ to Scott Wieland, Chris Cornell, Prince… the list of lost friends goes on. The band plays to perfection. Never overplaying they are there to back up Duff and his acoustic, to add colour and flair to the songs where needed. As before, you forget the bassist and guitarist are actually there, until they come stage front for a solo.

“Some friends of mine from Seattle wrote this song” sparks up Duff before breaking into Mad Season’s ‘River Of Deceit’. That opening little riff he trades with John is sublime, and the feel of the song fits the set perfectly. He gets some crowd participation going too. Duff straps on a telecaster and they take things right up with ‘Dust n Bones’. High energy rock ‘n’ roll, just what the doctor ordered, we sing every word and it sounds utterly fantastic. A killer solo and the crowd out-singing a cortisone-fuelled McKagan makes it a highlight.

Elsewhere this evening, ‘Last September’ and ‘Parkland’ are truly moving and about as relevant as you can get. Chillingly, Duff changes the words in ‘Parkland’ to include the most recent shootings, one that happened just a few days ago. The Clash’s ‘Clampdown’ is suitably ace, and the following ‘Dead Horse’ is downright amazing. Aubrey gets stage front to take the second verse, it’s chaotic. I’ve never heard it live before, I feel privileged.

It’s a rollercoaster of a set to be fair. The more fragile moments of ‘Tenderness’ are played out perfectly and when the band rock out, they are on fire. A final one-two and the band bows out. ‘Don’t Look Behind You’ sounds beautiful, full of sentiment, just like the goddamn record! And the closing cover of Mark Lanegan’s  ‘Deepest Shade’ sees our hero take off his guitar, jump into the pit and scale the barrier to get up close and personal with those at the front.

I knew tonight was going to be good, but I never imagined it would be this good. What I expected to be a laid back, acoustic affair turned out to be a full on rock ‘n’ roll show by a band who play like they have been on the road for years.

While ‘Tenderness’ is one of those ‘late night, stoner’ sort of albums rather than a ‘blast at full volume in the car’ sort of albums, it transfers very well in a live environment with a full band. Good songs are good songs, and coming from the heart and from the soul, Duff has an album full of them.

The tour may have just begun but Duff McKagan and his band have the camaraderie of a well seasoned touring band already. £40 well spent I say.

Author: Ben Hughes

Christened as ‘A Long Weekend Of Empty Bottles’, Tyla and his Dogs announced a short run of dates celebrating the 30th anniversary of ‘A Graveyard Of Empty Bottles’ recently. Dates in York and Birmingham to be special shows previewing acoustic and electric shows that will form part of the following two nights of celebration in London.

Classed by some as the best acoustic album ever released (me included), ‘A Graveyard Of Empty Bottles’ is a timeless snapshot of the classic Dogs D’amour line up at their peak. Recorded in December 1988 over a 10 day period, the album captures the essence of a band riding on the tail end of a whirlwind year and the comedown that followed a sold out, end of the year Astoria show.

The 8 song collection of ‘soft songs for hard people’ has recently been re- recorded by the current Dogs D’amour line up, and while I initially gave it a wide birth, I have to say the new version does bring something fresh to a bunch of songs I always felt should not be tampered with. In fact, I liked it enough in the lead up to this gig, that I only went and purchased the vinyl for the collection.

 

Joining the band on this little adventure are London’s finest rock ‘n’ roll reprobates The Dirty Strangers. Still led by loveable rogue Alan Clayton, a man with more Rolling Stones connections than Mick Jagger’s heart surgeon. In fact Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards both played on their debut album back in 1987, they even roped in The Damned’s Brian James and Joe Brown along the way too.

The four-piece band play no-frills, dirty rock ‘n’ roll, just the way it should be played. The singer, dressed in a stripy top and pork pie hat, a telecaster slung over his lanky frame, leads his band through a selection of bar-room boogie rock ‘n’ roll. The raw and unadulterated twelve-bar boogie of ‘Bad Girls’, with its “woo-hoo’s” hollering and some tinkling of the ivories sounds great and the low slung rock ‘n’ roll of ‘Are You Satisfied?’ goes down a charm. The singer and bassist share a mic for vocals on several songs in full Jagger & Richards style. And it doesn’t get more rock ‘n’ roll than ‘Gold Cortina’ does it? Full of cheeky cockney charm and rock ‘n’ roll swagger, The Dirty Strangers were the perfect band to open proceedings tonight. Great stuff indeed.

 

The Fulford Arms is classed as a hometown show for Tyla and The Dogs these days. It’s intimate, it’s packed and it’s hot… very hot. The band is playing two sets tonight, one acoustic and one electric, the anticipation is high and the atmosphere is electric.

“Who gave him a mic?” says Tyla, as drummer Simon starts with the piss-taking before the singer has even picked up his acoustic guitar. The joking continues for most of the night. With the band perched on barstools they launch straight into ‘Comfort Of The Devil’ followed by the fantastic ‘I Think It’s Love Again’. With the full band treatment these versions of ‘Graveyard..’ tracks are heavier and slower, but still contain those great infectious melodies. The latter particularly benefits from the updated treatment, it’s the little nuances in the arrangements, like where the band hold the note in the chorus just that little bit longer. It sounds ace.

This band have been a unit for a good few years now, live and in the studio, and it shows. The camaraderie and ability is second to none. Tyla plays acoustic, to his right guitarist Gaz rips on a telecaster and to his left the ever cool, vampiric Matty James, all dressed in black, doesn’t even break into a sweat on bass. The guys watch their leader for cues, they play off each other to perfection.

I’ve heard a few of these songs live before, but never all of them together, what a treat to behold! ‘Saviour’ is transformed from heartfelt balladry to a more bluesy, rock ‘n’ roll groover with added tinkling of the ivories and ‘Angel’ is still the sing a long hit single that never was.

The version of ‘Bullet Proof Poet’ they pull off tonight is simply stunning. An extended, tripped out version with Gaz ripping a killer solo. A song to get lost in, it’s over in minutes, yet somehow, it feels like we’ve been lost in it for hours.

Tyla takes over on bass duties and Matty brings out the blues harp for a mesmerising, sweat-soaked blues workout. I think it was called ‘Stealin’ From The Devil’? Correct me if I’m wrong.

A couple of killer tunes from last year’s excellent return to form ‘In Vino Veritas’ album (namely ‘I Don’t Love Anyone’ and ‘Bottle Of Red’) round off set one nicely. As Gaz suggests we all go outside to cool down while the guys prepare the stage for round 2.

 

Tyla’s bottle of red is on its last legs already as he straps on that iconic road worn Gretsch and strikes out the opening chords to ‘Billy Two Rivers’, the first of a small greatest hits set. Songs to sing a long to and songs to drink to, songs that soundtrack our youth and transition into adulthood. It’s nice to see some younger dudes and dudettes in attendance, many who weren’t even born when Tyla first hit the stages with these tunes.

Classic follows classic, ‘Last Bandit’ is as amazing as ever, ‘Firework Girl enthralls and induces goosebumps and ‘How Come It Never Rains’ is the ultimate drunk and sweaty sing along it was meant to be.

By the time we get to ‘I Don’t Want You To Go’ Tyla is visibly struggling in the heat, (as we all are) and finishes the last few songs perched on an amp. The red wine has all but gone and he looks ready for a nap. But he ain’t quite done yet. ‘Satellite Kid’ rounds off the hottest, sweatiest gig of the year so far as we all sing a long and smile for the final time this evening.

 

I feel very lucky to have witnessed this band in this venue multiple times. Every gig has been different, from various album celebrations to just good, old fashioned hits shows. Sometimes I’ve been drunk, sometimes I’ve been sober, but every time it has been a blast. Like a fine red wine Tyla’s Dogs D’amour get better each time I see them, I never take it for granted and I will always come back for more. At the end of the day, it’s one of my favourite songwriters singing some of my favourite songs in my local watering hole. It doesn’t get much better than that.

 

Author: Ben Hughes

Photos courtesy of Neil Vary Gig Photography

 

 

It’s the hottest day on record here in the UK and everyone is melting. The last thing I really want to do is spend the evening in a packed club that is notoriously hot, even in winter. But Living Colour are celebrating 30 years of ‘Vivid’ by playing their debut  album top to bottom, and it’s not too often they come to town. So I’m happy to brave the heat and continue to sweat. Hey, its rock ‘n’ roll kids, and I wouldn’t want it any other way!

First up on a 3 band bill we have Wisconsin blues merchant Jared James Nichols. This dude gives me serious hair envy! He looks like John Sykes circa 1988 and plays a black Les Paul like a bluesier Zakk Wylde. In fact, his 3 piece band come across like Wylde’s short lived Pride & Glory project, albeit a blues heavy version. Even heavily tattooed bassist Elvis has double denim, a trucker cap and probably smells of engine oil!

Jared’s unusual playing style sets him apart from his contemporaries. He doesn’t use a pick and yet creates a helluva tone. His voice hits the spot too, it’s raw, bluesy and downright righteous! His rhythm section are solid, and songwise they seem to come from a 70’s classic rock direction. A very British sound, I’m talking early Whitesnake meets Bad Company here.

He’s very appreciative of the turnout and the fact that he’s going down well with a crowd who are largely unfamiliar with his material. Great opening set from a rising star.

 

Now, we all love a bit of Toby Jepson, right? Whether it be Little Angels, fronting Gun or behind the desk producing the likes of Virginmarys. But right now Toby is doing what he loves best and what we love seeing him do, and that’s strapping on a guitar and fronting a new and exciting rock ‘n’ roll band.

Wayward Sons are on the verge of releasing their sophomore second album, and I say ‘sophomore’ without even hearing it, as the tracks played tonight stand tall above their collective output so far to these ears. I like Wayward Sons, they are a solid, traditional rock ‘n’ roll band and live they just get better every time I see them.

Toby is as always an engaging frontman who has the ability to whip up a crowd with ease, he should do, he’s been doing it for over 30 years! With a flying V strapped over his shoulder, he leads his band through a high energy set consisting of road worn tracks from their debut album and a few newbies thrown in for good measure. The likes of opener ‘Alive’ and ‘Ghost’ are early crowd-pleasers that go down a storm.

The title track of their upcoming album ‘The Truth Ain’t What It Used To Be’ is played and sounds very promising, as does brand new single ‘Joke’s On You’. The politically charged, socially aware lyrics make them a band to pay attention to in more ways than one right now.

Backed by a tight unit; guitarist Sam Wood, bassist Nic Wastell, drummer Phil Martini and keyboard player Dave Kemp, Toby Jepson has a tight band behind him that have the energy and the vitality to take them to bigger stages worldwide.

The band play a blinder and win over the Living Colour massive with ease, in fact, I have a suspicion many were here for Wayward Sons as much as Living Colour. Wayward Sons evoke the sound of both ’70s and 80’s rock but still retain a modern edge. To me, they come on like UFO meets Thin Lizzy, although I might be swayed by Nic’s Pete Way stage moves and Sam’s Scott Gorham looks.

We all sweat profusely and the band gives it their all. Toby jokes he’s knackered and Nic has more energy a man of his age should possess. They suffer sound problems and we lose Sam’s guitar for the last few songs, but it doesn’t matter one iota, Wayward Sons triumphed tonight. A band with a growing following and a reputation for great live shows. Expect headline status from now on.

Living Colour has always been one of those bucket list bands I needed to see live and up until a couple of years ago, I thought it would never happen. Yet, I finally did see them play and at my favourite venue too! Now they return to The Brudenall again. It’s not too often a band of this stature plays a club-sized venue and this is a must-see gig for me.

Interestingly, the themes of racism and discrimination that Living Colour blasted out on MTV three decades ago are still prevalent today, if not more so. While ‘Vivid’ was Living Colour’s most successful album, it was not ‘my’ album, that was ‘Stain’, constantly drummed into me by my Living Colour mad brother when it was released.  Surprisingly tonight they open with ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’ from that very same album.

As you would expect, the band are as tight as ever. The rhythm section of Will Calhoun and Doug Wimbish are one of the best in the business, the mental guitar histrionics of Vernon Reid are a joy to behold and then we have frontman Corey Glover. One of the most underrated voices in rock ‘n’ roll, a man whose vocals are still as good as they were back in the day.

The aforementioned opener sounds great, the chugging riff, the brooding, yet funky bass and those killer vocals sound fantastic. Nice opener! Corey thanks the appreciative crowd and lets those who don’t already know that tonight is a celebration of an album that came out 30 years ago and they would be playing it in its entirety. As he says, playing a lot of songs they haven’t played in years, but have been playing a lot lately. A great roar of appreciation follows as the intro tape introduces ‘Cult Of Personality’. Their biggest hit is 30 years old and sounds as fresh now as it did back then. We may all be dripping with sweat, but the band is only just warming up. Shit, Corey still has his jacket on for chrissakes!

‘I Wanna Know’ sounds ace, one of my favourite songs off this album actually, great to hear it live. ‘Middleman’ is a masterclass, played with ease as we sing along to the refrain, and the early Chili Peppers feel of ‘Funny Vibe’ just comes across so well live. Hearing these songs, and in order, takes me back to a certain time, it’s a proper nostalgia trip.

For me, the focal point of tonight’s show is bassist Doug Wimbish. Up there with the likes of Billy Sheehan, he has to be one of the best in the business and a cool cat to boot. Some sort of funky bass witch doctor, he conjures up mental, other-worldly noises from his instrument using a combination of pedals and actual magic!

It has to be said the sound tonight is not the best, there is even heckling to get Vernon’s guitar turned up, and while the singer and guitarist make a joke of it, the bassist visibly just wants to get on with the show. Even taking to the mic to say this is a live show, four guys with instruments… it is what it is.

Some of the notes Corey hits are outstanding tonight, as he holds the mic away from him and sings stretching to the limits of his range with ease, you realise he is up there with the likes of Ty Taylor as one of the greatest living soulful vocalists in rock ‘n’ roll right now. Amazing stuff.

‘Open Letter (To A Landlord)’ sounds fantastic and ‘Broken Hearts’ takes things down, full of sentiment and feels. I wonder if they are ever tired of playing a song like ‘Glamour Boys’? It sounds great, although I’m a bit disappointed it wasn’t the calypso version they did last time they played here. They funk things up nicely with the Prince-like ‘What’s Your Favorite Color?’, a personal highlight of the show that hasn’t dated, I fact I think it just improved with age.

Glover and Reid’s onstage banter is great. The pair take the piss out of each other constantly, with Reid leading a “Corey-Corey’ chant to a band mate he calls “the most stylish man in the building”.

No bass solo tonight (thank god!) and for the encore tonight we get an emotive ‘Love Rears Its Ugly Head’ and a killer ‘Elvis Is Dead/Hound Dog’ extended jam out.

 

The trend of bands playing albums in their entirety is sometimes met with caution. Knowing the setlist beforehand can take away from the expectation or the element of surprise of a live gig, yet other times it works and can just floor you. Tonight was the latter. Also, the growing trend of established, big bands playing intimate venues is alright by me any day of the week (especially in this venue).

Living Colour delivered a masterclass of funk rock tonight. While the sound guy needed slapping (the levels were all over the place) it did not detract from a most excellent set. All three bands were outstanding tonight and all different in their own way. From young guns playing the blues to someone old doing something new, to the established being steeped in nostalgia, it was a top night all round.

 

Author: Ben Hughes