Posts Tagged ‘folk’

The Shining Levels Durham Launderette 15 October 2022

SHINING TIX“I do what no man before me has ever done, I kiss the hands of the man who killed my son,” declares Priam when he prostrates himself before Achilles begging for Hector’s body. “And I do what countless women before me have been forced to do,” Briseis thinks bitterly, “I spread my legs for the man who killed my husband and my brothers.”

(The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker,2018)

SHINING 1The Durham Launderette is a quirky venue which is, yes, a real launderette in Durham which features bands on the evening playing in front of the washing machines! It sounds crazy but it works well. The Shining Levels are a local band who are, in my view, excellent (but then I am biased because my daughter, Laura, is a singer in the band!) They have released two albums to date, each of which is based upon a book by a local author. This concert was part of the Durham Book Festival and was advertised as: “Following the success of their first album: The Gallows Pole, based on the novel by Benjamin Myers and soon to be a major BBC drama written and directed by Shane Meadows, The Shining Levels return with a full-length album based upon award winning author Pat Barker’s novel The Silence of the GirlsSHINING2. Pat Barker herself approached the group suggesting they give her novel a similar treatment, very much enjoying the synergy of music and literature.”

pat barker coverNow Pat Barker is a pretty famous local author so to have recorded an album to accompany her book is a major achievement for the band. The book is described as: “The Silence of the Girls is an electrifying revision of The Iliad which for the first time gives voice to the women enslaved by the Greek army headed by the god-like warrior Achilles, through the main character Briseis.”

SHINING3We arrived early and took our seats close to the front for a good view. The music of the Shining Levels is difficult to categorise. They blend folk, world music and roots in a “sprawling soundscape of songs ranging from the orchestral through psychedelic pop and ethereal pastoral ballads and beyond, tipping its hat to a myriad of musical influences and styles. All delivered with the drama and exquisite vocal harmonies The Shining Levels are known for.”

SHINING DAVEThe evening was a mixture of songs by the band further illustrated by some readings from the book, which I found quite harrowing in the graphic descriptions of female abuse by the men in the Greek army.

SHINING COVER FRONTThe album The Silence of the Girls has just been released by the Butterfly Effect label. In fact, the albums arrived at the venue hot off the press and we bought one of the first copies, getting the inner sleeve signed by the entire band.

SHINING SIGNEDThe Shining Levels are: Laura Smith – Lead vocalists and looper extraordinaire; Christina Cuthbertson – Vocals, flute and percussion; Jenny Clewes – Vocal and violin; Dan Coggins – Songwriter/Producer – bass, guitars, keyboards, weird noises and vocals and Davey J – Songwriter, bass, guitars, keyboards, piano and vocals.

Set List: Hide Behind the Sun; The Silence of the Girls; Ferry Us; Selene; Queen to a Cow; Arianna Said; The Butcher; Circles of Dust; City on the Hill; Sisters Don’t Leave; The Mist She Brings.

Don McLean Sage Gateshead 24 September 2022

 

don tixThe great song “American Pie” is etched in my memory for reasons, which sleep after time I will explain below. Don McLean bills himself as “The American Troubadour” and this performance at the magnificent Sage concert hall demonstrated just how well he deserves that title. The Sage announced the concert as below:

“The American Troubadour has had Top 20 singles worldwide with American Pie, Vincent, Cryin, And I Love You So, Wonderful Baby, Since I Don’t Have you, It’s Just The Sun & If We Try . He is an inductee of the Grammy Hall Of Fame, Songwriters Hall of Fame and is a recipient of a BBC Lifetime achievement award. This year he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which can be found in front of The Pie Hole Bakery, between Hollywood and Vine.

don4American Pie was recorded in May 1971 and a month later received its first radio airplay.  Thirty years later, it was voted number 5 in a poll of the 365 “Songs of the Century” compiled by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts. Issued as a double A-side single in November 1971 and charted within a month. Interest from the media and public sent the single to #1 in the USA and Don to international superstardom. Every line of the song was analysed time and time again to find the real meaning. Don refused to sanction any of the many interpretations, so adding to its mystery” (Sage Gateshead website).

So why is “American Pie” so important to me? Roll back 50 years and the Lincoln Festival in May 1972. I was 15 years old and this was my first pop festival. I was so excited going along to a festival at such a tender age. I went with a couple of schoolfriends and we met up with a bunch of lads (“boys” as we called ourselves) from Sunderland. We built a festival base out of bales of hay which we slept in, danced on and generally had a great time around after hippie throughout the weekend. The reference to “boys” is quite important. “Boys” were cool, and as in the words of the David Bowie song “Boys Keep Swinging”… “Boys always work it out!”. There are other references to “boys” in the literature and songs such as the Thin Lizzy hit “The Boys Are Back in Town”. For me being a boy meant knowing which concerts and festivals to be seen at and being a cross between a mod, hippie, “a face” and young man about town. However I always felt a little bit of an impostor and not a real “boy”. I never really hung out with the boys and just hooked up with them on certain key occasions, particularly at festivals. Anyway for this weekend I was a trainee boy and proud to be so.

lincolnprogThe Lincoln Festival had a magnificent lineup with Rod Stewart and the Faces, the Beach boys, Rory Gallagher, Humble Pie (now Steve Marriot was definitely a boy), Genesis, Strawbs, Status Quo, Joe Cocker, Monty Python!, Stone The Crows with Maggie Bell, Lindisfarne, Nazareth, Atomic Rooster, Slade and many others. Anyway, appearing on the Sunday afternoon, as I recall, was a guy called Don Maclean sandwiched between excellent performances by Status Quo (who were busy transitioning from a pop band to the number one boogie machine) and the magnificent Humble Pie (with Steve Marriot excelling himself as a great soul and blues singer “my skin is white, but my soul is black”). “American Pie” had just been in the UK singles chart and was, by then, a global hit with its very enigmatic lyrics, which we all know now are loosely based around the death of Buddy Holly, a hero of Don McLean. The festival had been plagued by showers of torrential rain but, just at the point Don started singing “American Pie” the rain stopped and the sun came out. It was a truly magical moment and we all stood up (the boys singing and dancing on the top of our hay barn). From that point on I was a fan and I went to see Don McLean several times after that at Newcastle City Hall. He went on to have many other hits including the beautiful “Vincent” about Vincent Van Gough.

don2So roll forward 50 years and my carer Jan and I are seated at the back of the Sage waiting to see Don McLean. This was Jan’s first Don McLean concert and for me, it was probably around 40 years since I last saw him. I lost touch with him, sadly, along the way. Support act was Elles Bailey who won the crowd over with an excellent set of Americana tunes. Don came on stage with acoustic guitar and took us through a set that you would expect from an American Troubadour. A mixture of his own classic songs, traditional American folk and crooner songs; some of which were familiar to me, others less so. I had forgotten “Castles in the Air” and it was great to hear his version of songs such as “Deep in the Heart of Texas” and “I’m Gonna Sit Right down and Write Myself a Letter”. Excellent. He looked well and was in fine voice. He finished, of course, with “American Pie”. We all sang along again and the words seemed just as touching, powerful and enigmatic as they ever did. For a moment, in my mind, I was back on the hay barn, with the boys. Soon it was all over and we left the hall humming and singing “American Pie” which has earned its place in rock ‘n’ roll mythology. The troubadour returned to the road, with a handful of songs, and one particular piece of magic which touches the hearts and souls of people around the world. Don told us that he was going to cut back on touring and will only visit a handful of places in the future; however to our delight, he announced that he loved the Sage concert hall and would include it on his shorter touring schedule in the future. Great news. Happy days.

don3Thanks to Jan for her photographic skills.

Setlist (something like this, partly from memory, the order may be wrong!): Lotta Lovin’; Botanical Gardens; The Lucky Guy; Crossroads; Tulsa Time / Deep In the Heart of Texas; Prime Time; Winterwood; Empty Chairs; Castles in the Air; Choose to Pay; I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town; Mountains o’ Mourne; I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter; And I Love You So; American Boys; Vincent; Midnight Special; American Pie

Peggy Seeger The Sage 22 October 2018

For this entry, my daughter Laura has written an account of her experience of the concert.

Although I was much more familiar with the music of her brother Pete, I was very much looking forward to seeing Peggy peggy tixSeeger in concert. Her track “I’m Gonna be an Engineer” had been a favourite in our house, featuring on a family play-list we’d created for my daughter. The obvious feminist messages of this track had sparked my interest and made me intrigued to hear more of Seeger’s output. So, when Dad told us of the up-coming Sage concert, both Dale and I were keen to go. Baby-sitter secured, Dale and I headed to the Sage where we met up with Dad and his carer Jackie.

As a political activist, who has spent most of her life campaigning, Peggy Seeger’s music speaks of working-class struggle, feminism, environmentalism, peace and social injustice. Her two-part set included tracks which focused heavily on such themes and reflected her political beliefs. Particularly striking was “Reclaim the Night”, a dark folk song examining sexual violence and consent which Peggy performed a-cappella. However, although the set had many sombre moments when such tracks were performed, Peggy managed to deliver these serious messages whilst still keeping the evening warm and full of charismatic banter.

Seeger created a friendly, light-hearted and good-humoured relationship with the crowd. She joked between tracks and encouraged the audience to speak up and sing along with the songs, unifying the crowd and giving the evening a traditional folk feel at times. Indeed, the Belfast review stated, “Seeger’s greatest asset is her uncanny ability to dissolve the gap between artist and audience.” (Belfast Review, 2017)

At the age of 83, Seeger treated us to stories about her fascinating life, mentioning her late husband Ewan MacColl and her brothers Mike and Peter. There was the sense that we were seeing a living legend perform.

peggy bookSeeger “saw folk music as inherently political” referring to it as “the expressions and artistry of people who are not in power.” (Freedman, 2017) It was evident from this concert that Seeger’s performance was not just a musical expression but more-over an externalising of a set of beliefs.

Peter adds: I knew of course, on the famous love affair between Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, and how he wrote the song “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” about Peggy. I also knew that sometimes Peggy performs the song, and I was hoping that she would do so. I was a little disappointed that you did not sing it this time; however, this did not detract from a wonderful concert and a lovely evening spent with friends and family.

I bought a copy of Peggy’s book, which tells the story of her fascinating life. A rare opportunity to see a legend in concert.

Set List: I’ve been Wisconsin, I’ve Been a Bad Bad Girl, Buffalo Boy, Different Therefore Equal, Reclaim the Night, Brony on the Isle of ST Helena, Ballad of Accounting, Everything Changes, Concerning the Three Young Men, The Creel, Right to Life, Careless Love, Do You Believe in Me, We Don’t Talk Any More, The Joys of Living, Song of Choice, Donald’s in the White House,

Shining Levels Pop Recs Sunderland 7 June 2019

How could I forget to review this concert? The Shining Levels are a band that features my own daughter, Laura, and who has been performing songs based on the book the Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers. I saw them several times before the lockdown and this concert was very local, in Sunderland, and only a few streets away. The concert took place at Pop Rex, which some of you will remember as The Bunker, a recording studio and, in its previous location, a venue where I saw anarcho-punk bands such as the Poison Girls and Dirt.

Pop Recs Ltd is an independent record shop, which also has an art gallery, shop, and steaming cups of coffee. Pop Recs Ltd, which is owned by local band Frankie & The Heartstrings, is currently located on Stockton Road. In its time at its previous location on Fawcett Street, Pop Recs Ltd played host to some of the most exciting live music gigs in Sunderland, pretty much every week and more often than not for free. Great bands playing gigs at Pop Recs Ltd have included Badly Drawn Boy, Maximo Park, Edwyn Collins and James Bay.

What can people expect from your show at Pop Recs on Friday 7th June? (NARC, June 4th 2019)
An hour or so of complete musical escapism, we will set the tone for meditation, a musical seance which we can all enjoy together.

And that is exactly what we got, the lovely swirling vocals of the three girls, complete with flute and violin and the earthy, grounded vocals of the two boys. Unfortunately, we arrived late, at least in terms of getting a good space, and I was seated at the back in my wheelchair unable to see much over the heads of the people standing in front of me. But such is life nowadays, nonetheless, I could hear the lovely sounds which filled the room and made their way out into the dark street outside.

“Inspired by the real life events of 18th century Yorkshire criminal gang the Cragg Vale Coiners who operate in the Upper Calder Valley in the Pennines, the album’s source material, The Gallows Pole by author Benjamin Myers, has rapidly become a modern cult classic. It is the first novel to be signed to Jack White’s Third Man Books and will be published in the US/Canada in November 2019. It has also been optioned for film adaptation.

Drawing on a shared childhood and background with the author, The Shining Levels’ music explores themes from the book: an England divided, the potency and mystery of remote rural landscapes, industrial progress, the changing seasons, shifting fortunes, self-delusion and self-aggrandizement, poverty vs wealth, societal power structures – and strange visions of mythical creatures….. the bucolic meet the technological, and the rural collides with the digital to thrilling effect. “There’s certainly a nod towards what many may consider English folk, certainly in Laura’s beautiful plaintive voice,” elaborates Davey [of the band]. “But there’s also pounding drums, overdriven electric guitar, loops, and samples all over the place. So I think to call it folk music would actually be doing it a disservice. It’s a set of quite different songs and moods forming a larger soundscape that hopefully takes the listener on a unique journey.” (Piccadilly Records, 2019)

Another lovely evening with a fantastic band who I look forward to seeing again once we are out of the lockdown. I know that the band is working on new material which I look forward to seeing them perform very soon.

Roy Harper Sage Gateshead 20 March 2019

roy 1969And O how the sea she roars with laughter
And howls with the dancing wind
To see my stupid poetry burbling” (McGoohan’s Blues, Roy Harper, 1969)

The first time I saw Roy Harper in concert was in 1969. I was 12 years old and Roy was 27. Roy was just about to release Folkjokeopus his third album. The album is notable for the lengthy track “McGoohan’s Blues”, which Harper states was “inspired by actor Patrick McGoohan’s depiction of the establishment rebel in his TV series, The Prisoner“.

Here I am 50 years later seeing Roy once more. Roy is a sprightly 77-year-old and I am 62 years old.

The advertisement for the Sage concert stated: “Renowned folk singer-songwriter Roy Harper is celebrating 50 years of classic tracks including the famed epic ‘McGoohan’s Blues’. In 2013 his album Man & Myth was lauded by press across the UK. Uncut said “Harper’s first album in 13 years is a magnificent, ambitious rejuvenation.” Harper will joined by Bill Shanley and an ensemble of musicians.

HARPER TIXOn why he has decided to tour again, Harper said: “Partly because many of the things I wrote about in McGoohan’s Blues in 1968 are still very relevant 50 years later, and partly because my third record was a watershed moment in my recording life, it’s been long in my mind that I should dust it off and bring it on tour again.”

The concert was in two sets and drew from throughout Roy’s extensive back catalogue. Roy was on good form, chatting with the audience as usual; although he didn’t get quite as much banter (or heckling) in response as he usually does. His voice remains strong and soulful and his passion and commitment is as undiminished as ever. Roy was accompanied by a small string section which gave an added texture to the songs.

So we were treated to some of my favourite Harper songs such as “Don’t You Grieve”, the classic “Another Day” and “Highway Blues”. Roy closed the set with “When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease”. The encore was a more recent song “I Loved My Life”. It was great to see Roy again, still touring and still a delight. I would love to have heard him Roy-Harpersing “I Hate the White Man” but, hey, you can’t always get what you want. Jackie my carer is now a Roy Harper convert, which is great. Me, I had a lovely evening, spent with an old friend.

Setlist. Set 1: Hors d’oeuvres; Time Is Temporary; Don’t You Grieve; Man In the Glass Cage; McGoohan’s Blues. Set 2: Another Day; Drawn to the Flames; The Wolf at the Door; Highway Blues; Hallucinating Light; When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease. Encore: I Loved My Life

Ian Anderson Christmas concert Durham Cathedral 14 December 2017

jethro durham tixThe Ian Anderson Christmas concerts have become a regular part of his concert calendar. Each year he plays a few of these concerts at selected cathedrals around the country. This time we were lucky enough for him to come to the majestic surroundings of Durham Cathedral. The concerts take a similar format; a mix of festive songs, songs from the Jethro Tull Christmas album, often a special guest, and a selection of Jethro Tull favourites.

The concert was billed as “Ian Anderson plays the Christmas Jethro Tull: Ian Anderson brings his Christmas Jethro Tull concert to Durham Cathedral. A fundraising event in support of Durham Cathedral.”

Durham_Cathedral_20_July_2019So I turned up on a cold winter’s night in my taxi, with Jackie my carer, which dropped me off right at the door of Durham Cathedral. I was greeted inside by my friends Norman, his sister Barbara and our old friend Doug. Now Durham Cathedral is a wonderful venue for a concert. “Durham Cathedral is a Norman church in England, designed under the direction of the first Bishop of Durham, William of Calais. It was built to house the remains of St. Cuthbert, but also to show off the might of the new Norman rulers. Construction began in 1093 and lasted 40 years.” (study.com)

The audience were seated in the pews in the central nave of the cathedral, with the stage situated in front of the high altar. I was seated in my wheelchair, in the aisle at the end of a row, around halfway back in the cathedral, with a good view of the stage. Ian was accompanied by the rest of his “Jethro Tull” band.

1024px-Durham_Cathedral_NaveThe concert was in two halves; the first set opening with festive classics “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” followed by “Gaudete” made famous by Steeleye Span. This was followed by a selection of tunes from the Jethro Tull Christmas album, including the great single “Ring Out, Solstice Bells”. Highlight of this set was a performance of Greg Lakes’ “I Believe in Father Christmas”. The set ended with the beautiful flute solo “Bourrée”, written by Bach and featured on Jethro Tull’s Stand Up album.

After a short break, the second set featured Ian’s friend Loyd Grossman playing his former punk band Jet Bronx and the Forbidden’s single “Ain’t Doin’ Nothing”. The set ended with Tull classics “My God” (a particular favourite of mine), “Aqualung”, closing with the encore (as always now) “Locomotive Breath”.

jethro durham progIan was on great form all evening, entertaining us with his usual anecdotes and some excellent flute playing. I can’t think of a better way of spending a cold Christmas evening than one with old friends, festive music and Ian Anderson and his band playing Jethro Tull classics. A great start to Christmas.

Setlist.

Set 1: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen; Gaudete; We Five Kings (Jethro Tull); A Christmas Song  (Jethro Tull); Ring Out, Solstice Bells (Jethro Tull); Pastime With Good Company; Christmastime Romance; I Believe in Father Christmas (Greg Lake); Jack-in-the-Green (Jethro Tull); Bourrée in E minor (Johann Sebastian Bach).

Set 2: Holly Herald (Jethro Tull); Ain’t Doin’ Nothing (Jet Bronx and the Forbidden AKA Loyd Grossman); Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (Johann Sebastian Bach); My God (Jethro Tull); Aqualung (Jethro Tull). Encore: Locomotive Breath (Jethro Tull)

Image of Durham Cathedral courtesy of: Rubbish computer / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Image of Durham Cathedral nave courtesy of: Michael D Beckwith – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79861899

Julie Felix Old Cinema Launderette Durham 28 September 2019

Screenshot felixI have many happy memories of the sadly missed Julie Felix. She first came to my attention in 1966, as the resident singer on the BBC television programme The Frost Report, presented by David Frost. Born in America, and of Mexican origin, Julie became the first solo folk performer signed to a major British record label, Decca Records. In 1965, she was the first folksinger to fill the Royal Albert Hall, and was described by The Times as “Britain’s First Lady of Folk”. But I remember her best for her own TV shows for the BBC (1967 to 1970). Among those featured on her show were the Kinks, The Hollies, The Incredible String Band, Fleetwood Mac, Leonard Cohen and Led Zeppelin’s lead guitarist, Jimmy Page, who played the guitar solos “White Summer” and “Black Mountain Side”. I have particularly fond memories of seeing Jimmy Page on her show.I also, of course, remember her for the children’s song “Going to the Zoo“.

julie felixI first got to see Julie Felix live at a free concert in Hyde Park in 1974, which was headlined by Roger McGuinn and also featured an epic performance by Roy Harper, accompanied by David Gilmour, John Paul Jones and Steve Broughton. Julie was just great that day in Hyde Park, singing a selection of folk songs and getting the crowd to sing along to “Going to the Zoo.” I went to the concert with my friend Will and have written about it in an earlier blog entry.

The next time I saw Julie Felix, again with Will, was at her 70th birthday concert at the Sage Gateshead. This time Julie did a much longer set than that which I had experienced in Hyde Park, reminiscing about her friend and protégé Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and other friends and fellow folk singers.

So when I saw she was appearing at the Old Cinema Launderette in Durham I couldn’t resist the opportunity of seeing her again in such an intimate venue. I arrived at the venue with my carer, Joanne, just after the doors opened and managed to get a place close to the front. First up for the evening was local folk singer Bethany Elen, who got the audience singing along and warmed us up nicely for the main performance. Julie performed two sets, singing a selection of folk songs from across the decades. Julie Felix had a unique, beautiful voice which remained strong, even though she was 81 at the time of this performance. felix debut

It was wonderful to see her again in such a small venue. Sadly, it came to an end all too soon, as my taxi arrived and Joanne and I had to leave the concert before the end, picking up Chris along the way to help me on my way into my bed.

Julie Felix sadly passed away on March 22, 2020 after a short illness, and we lost yet another of my 60s heroes.

The set list was probably something like this (to my shame, I can’t recall the exact songs she sang and I had to leave before the end anyway 😦 ): Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right (Bob Dylan); Masters of War (Bob Dylan); Pack Up Your Sorrows; Valenzuela; Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye (Leonard Cohen); Chimes of Freedom (Bob Dylan); Anything Less Than Beautiful; Universal Soldier (Buffy Sainte-Marie); Woman; El Condor Pasa (Simon & Garfunkel); We Wish You Love; Rock Me Goddess; Healing Hands; Going to the Zoo; This Land Is Your Land; Peace Is A River

 

The Shining Levels the Old Cinema Launderette Durham 11th October 2019

shining levels tix durThis was my second Shining Levels experience. This one was a bit special because it was part of the Durham book Festival, and based around the Gallows Pole book by local author Benjamin Myers. The author was in attendance at the event, signing copies of the book (see my signed copy below).

gallows pole cover“Benjamin Myers was born in Durham, UK, in 1976. He is an author and journalist, translated into several languages. Published in May 2017 and now in its 9th print run, The Gallows Pole won the Walter Scott Prize – the world’s biggest award for historical fiction – was recipient of a Roger Deakin Award and longlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize. It has been optioned for film/TV by Element Pictures and also available on Audible.”(Benjamin Myers site)gallows pole signed

The Old Cinema Launderette is a wonderful, quirky little venue which is an actual launderette by day and (sometimes) a music venue by night. It is a lovely venue to see artists in an intimate setting and regularly features legendary names such as, for example, the late and sadly missed Julie Felix who I recently had the privilege of seeing there, not long before her passing (review to follow very shortly). The acts perform in front of the washing machines and the audience are in seats very close to the stage. You have to turn up early to get a good spot, so Jackie, my carer and I arrived just before the 7 p.m. opening time to ensure a place near the front.

The evening began with a short video telling the story of Benjamin Myers, how he grew up locally and how his writings draw from his north-east roots. There was then a short interval, at which point a bar magically appeared in the corner of the launderette, before the Shining Levels took the stage. The Shining Levels are Davy J (vocals, guitar and piano), DW (Dan) Coggins (vocals and guitar), Laura Smith (vocals and loop pedals), Christina Cuthbertson (vocals and flute) and Jenny Clewes (vocals and violin). I have written earlier about the Shining Levels and their haunting, swirling mix of sounds. The eclectic combination of folk music, book readings and mix of flute, violin, a female trio of vocals and male vocals has to be experienced to understand just how beautiful, yet at the same shining levels 2 durtime dark and powerful, their sounds can be.

Their set takes us through the novel, the Gallows Pole , starting with the ladies taking the lead and introducing the story with the beautiful, drifting “Moonless Nights” and then over to the guys who become the “Valley Boys”, climaxing with a joyous, yet dark, “Death of the King”. The set is interspersed with readings from the book by Dan. The band receive a rapturous ovation from the crowd who hang around to speak to the musicians, buy copies of the album, have their books signed by Ben before slowly venturing out into the cold, dark streets of Gilesgate.

Setlist: Stag Dance; Moonless Nights; Tipping Of The Scale; Broken On A Wheel; Valley Boys; Progress!; Deighton; Men Of Straw; Veil of the Vale; Death of the King

The Shining Levels Darlington Library 22nd November 2019

From the original blurb on the excellent site Tracks Darlington

HARK! The sound of stories. An evening of music inspired by tales from times past. Historical. Mythological. Folkological. Fill your ears and your souls with songs of stagmen, golden apples, coiners, diamond rings and murder for love. History is darker than you think.

THE SHINING LEVELS: Presenting music inspired by the award winning novel The Gallows Pole by Ben Myers. Haunting harmonies and beautiful folk fusion, interspersed with readings from the book. Written on the edge of the Northern English moors and using rural folk musicians, loops and electronics, their debut album is a heady brew of gritty landscape hymns, ethereal acid-folk, borderlands ballads, 70s folk horror atmospherics, moor-top drones and much, much more.”

hark tixA taxi from Sunderland to Darlington (return) is expensive. But, what the hell, my lovely daughter Laura was singing in the band The Shining Levels at Darlington Library. Well I had to go, didn’t I? So my kindly Station Taxis driver drove me, along with my carer Jackie, waited for me, and then drove me back home afterwards.

“The Shining Levels are a brand new music collective based in Durham and Northumberland, who record on the edge of the Northern English Moors and seek inspiration from books. Their new album, Music Inspired By The Novel The Gallows Pole (a novel written by Durham-born author Benjamin Myers) uses rural folk musicians, loops and electronics, takes influence from the likes of Pentangle, Sandy Denny, Tom Waits alongside a love of ambient music, hip-hop production and musical obscurities. The result is music that is as exquisite as it is interesting.” Narc The Shining Levels are Davy J (vocals, guitar and piano), DW Coggins (vocals and guitar), Laura Smith (vocals and loop pedals), Christina Cuthbertson (vocals and flute) and Jenny Clewes (vocals and violin).laura shinning levels

Jackie and I arrived at Darlington library, entered a lift which took us from the street into the library itself, where the performance took place surrounded by shelves of books; quite a strange and unique, yet very appropriate, setting for an evening of book readings and folk roots world music, some of which was inspired by a book (namely the Gallows Pole).

We were seated at the side of stage with a great view of the performance. The evening started with some book readings, followed by the exquisite Storm Chorus, a duo from the edge of the North Yorks moors whose music is a haunting mix of folk and Goth. Then the Shining Levels took the stage and delivered a set of songs, written by Davy and Dan, which draw from the book the Gallows Pole, laura black n whiteand transfixed the audience in their haunting, swirling mix of sounds. The eclectic combination of folk music, book readings and mix of flute, violin, a female trio of vocals and male vocals has to be experienced to understand just how beautiful, yet at the same time dark and powerful, their sounds can be. Live in London Of course I am biased, being the very proud father of Laura, but the review above also demonstrates just how haunting a combination it is. Jackie and I are both getting to know the songs and the music and each time we experience it we notice new nuances and textures. The performance was over far too soon and then we were off downstairs in the lift, after a quick word to congratulate Laura and the others, and into our waiting taxi. Soon we were back home, having picked up Chris, who helped me back into my bed, the music still swirling around in my head.

 

Bob Dylan Manchester Apollo 28th October 2015

Bob Dylan Manchester Apollo 28th October 2015FullSizeRender(2)
Bobby; he keeps reinventing himself. These days he has become a crooner, the ultimate smokey lounge singer, paying tribute to all those great balladeers who went before. It sort of suits his croaky gravelly rasp. Like he has found his way back home. His latest album “Shadows in the night” covers songs made famous by Frank Sinatra. It has been a big success; reaching Number 1 in the UK album charts and achieving rave reviews. The Telegraph declared it Dylan’s “best singing in 25 years.” The crowd at Manchester Apollo knew the score. Two nights sold out in the blink of an eye. Everyone wants to go see Bobby sing those sad winding poetic tunes. FullSizeRender(5)From Rolling Stone: “He felt that a lot .. of it was written from the heart …He felt there was a lot of spirit in that music. …. ‘I’m not gonna write a song; I’m gonna pay homage to what shook me as young boy.'” So no “Like a Rolling Stone” or “All along the Watchtower” this time around, although we were treated to “Tangled up in blue”, “She belongs to me” and, for an encore “Blowing in the Wind”. The rest of the set was drawn from Dylan’s recent albums. But hey I’m not complaining. Bob Dylan is singing great; better than he has been for years. Sure; I never dreamed I would see Bob Dylan sing Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I do”, but it works, and seems so natural. Dylan’s voice fits these songs like an old glove. Of the more recent Dylan tunes, “Scarlet Town” is dark and powerful. Closing classic “Autumn Leaves” was truly emotional, and a great way to end an excellent and enjoyable concert. As we made our way out of the Apollo, I could hear everyone around me commenting how good it was. Very different to shows I attended 10 years ago, which left some people disappointed. Me; I went back to my little hotel room in Piccadilly and got some sleep; I had to get up at 5am to catch a train to London for a meeting. Till next time Bobby.
Set 1: Things Have Changed; She Belongs to Me; Beyond Here Lies Nothin’; What’ll I Do; Duquesne Whistle; Melancholy Mood; Pay in Blood; I’m a Fool to Want You; Tangled Up in Blue
Set 2: High Water (For Charley Patton); Why Try to Change Me Now; Early Roman Kings; The Night We Called It a Day; Spirit on the Water; Scarlet Town; All or Nothing at All; Long and Wasted Years; Autumn Leaves
Encore: Blowin’ in the Wind; Love Sick