20 Feb 2014

FAIRPORT CONVENTION - Sage Gateshead - 19th February 2014

It seems fitting to be at Sage on the night of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards to see Fairport Convention, a band who recently completed their 45th Anniversary tour and have been honoured three times by their peers at that event. They've had gongs for a "Lifetime Achievement Award", "Most Influential Folk-Rock Album of All Time" ("Liege & Leif") and "Favourite Folk Track of All Time" ("Who Knows Where the Time Goes"). The current line, distilled from some 25 members over the years, more than do justice to the bands legend tonight.

The evening begins with a short but melodic set from Yorkshire singer Edwina Hayes who entertains with some colourful tales about her Dad complemented with a song about him, 'Pour Me a Drink', and a bitter-sweet tune about lost love entitled 'Love is Suffering' and winding up with heartfelt cover of ex-Fairport member Richard Thompson's 'Waltzing's for Dreamers'. Hayes possess a beautiful voice and delivers the set with good humour and style. She is joined by the Fairports on her concluding song (and their opener) - a fabulous cover of John Prine's 'The Speed of the Sound of Loneliness' that underlines how great they sound with a female lead singer, a fact that we will be reminded of later in the set. 

Veteran Fairporter Simon Nicol, who is the sole original member, handles most of the introductions and as Hayes leaves the stage he quips "Ok, fun's over, back on your head's" before launching straight into a gorgeous 'Jewel in the Crown' and the band sound fulsome and melodic. Over the evening they play a rich mix of old and new dipping into old albums with tunes like 1970's Richard Thompson tune "Doctor of Physick", the jig and reel tour-de-force 'Dirty Linen' and a stunning 'Mercy Bay' from 2011's "Festival Bell"  and a classy 'Cell Song' from "Babbercombe Lee" that closes the first half. 

During the second set multi-instrumentalist Chris Leslie who, along with drummer Jerry Conway, are the new boys with, respectively, 18 and 16 years service, delivers a number of self written new tunes including the superb new song 'Myths and Heroes' and 'Grace and Favour' from one of a Chris' solo albums, that pays excellent tribute to local hero Grace Darling and has a fitting epic quality enhanced by Ric Sanders exemplary fiddle playing. We get a rearranged 'Wassail Song' with Nicol getting in some good natured digs at Jethro Tull and Pegg on kazoo. Some of the banter is directed inwardly as fiddle player Ric Sanders describes Matt Pegg (deputising for the injured Dad, Dave, tonight) and Jerry Conway as "the greatest rhythm section available in their price range". 

Mid way through the second set we get a glorious 'Farewell Farewell' that causes audible gasps of amazement around the room. We know we are coming to the end of the show though as Nicol pays fulsome praise to introduce Sandy Denny's classic song 'Who Knows Where the Times Goes' and talks about the song laying at the bottom of Denny's guitar case for a while before she had the courage to show it to the band. We are in for a rare treat as Edwina Hayes returns to share the tender vocal with Nicol and they provide one of those rare musical moments that you know you will remember for a long, long time. It makes me think that they really should start to work again with a female voice and, for me, Edwina more than fits the bill.

The main set ends with the cracking murder ballad 'Matty Groves' from that folk classic "Liege & Lief" and, although they must have played it hundreds of times, its still delivered with enthusiasm and passion and makes for a memorable closer. For the encore we are left with another Richard Thompson favourite, 'Meet on the Ledge', from their 1969 opus "What We Did on our Holidays". Hayes' exceptional voice helps to round out this superb rendition that has the sold-out crowd on their feet as the band leave the stage after inviting us all down to Cropredy in August for their annual knees-up.

Words: Greg Johnson

19 Feb 2014


Jazz, and some Spring Cleaning by Roots of the World

If you are feeling like the dust of life is clinging to you a little too much, or that the Spring sunshine hasn’t quite lit up the darkest corners of your seasonally affected self, the forthcoming Gateshead International Jazz Festival could be just what you need. 
Art Blakey, once said that “Jazz washes away the dust of everyday life”, and this aforesaid festival will truly spring clean the spirits.

Now in its tenth year, the festival has become the U.K’s biggest jazz festival under one roof, offering huge diversity to the confirmed jazz lover or the jazz curious as this preview will show.

Urban grooves and electronica provide an infectious cross genre start on the festival’s opening night.  Texan producer/pianist Robert Glasper crosses the boundaries between jazz and hip-hop, with his quartet, “The Experiment” playing a late night set. Earlier on that evening, super cool brasilero Ed Motta brings jazz funk to Gateshead. His current output is influenced by 70s soul and Steely Dan. The sound of County Durham is not ignored as the music of “Prefab Sprout” gets the jazz treatment. Django Bates, acclaimed UK jazz composer, Sweden’s Norrbotten Big Band and jazz saxophonist, Joakim Milder, perform a suite, created by Milder around Prefab’s legacy. 

Ros Rigby, Performance Programme Director at Sage Gateshead describes the line-up for the festival as “our strongest ever”. The diversity marking day one keeps on going into the remainder of the festival. 

Saturday sees Hall One host a jazz supergroup; Argentine pianist Leo Genovese, who has an avant-garde background and grew up amidst the psychedelia of 1970s Brazil , plays with Grammy award winning jazz bassist Esperananza Spalding as members “The Spring Quartet”. Later on that evening, Courtney Pine, jazz multi-instrumentalist, provides a very different offering with a mix geographically based in the Carribean with mento, ska, and calypso. 

I earlier refererred to Art Blakey. The living connection between that colossus of bebop drumming and the festival is Jean Toussaint, who played in Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. These days Jean, saxophonist, has a quartet and you can catch them on the Saturday at 2p.m.

There are too many performers to mention as with all festival overviews.  I won’t touch on everything, so do please visit Sage's website. 

I will close with my eye being particularly drawn to Sunday in Hall Two.  Bill Frissell, guitarist and composer joins his trio to explore country, folk and blues through jazz to begin a perfect way to spend a Sunday.  Punk determinedly squeezes itself under the accommodating roof that is jazz. Sunday afternoon sees the experimental British jazz band, Polar Bear, throw punk, hip-hop and classical music into the mix, whilst the sonically thrilling local world/roots/fusion band Hannabiell and Midnight Blue close the festival. They are joined by local quartet “The Waal” providing a contrast based in jazz, folk, Scandinavian and Eastern European influences.  

Hear tracks from musicians featuring at the festival on April’s “Newcastle Roots Music Radio” out April 1st and on “The Roots of the World Show” on Hive Radio on March 16th at 5pm.

17 Feb 2014


It's 00:16 and I should be sleeping or at least doing something worthwhile. But I've just put a record on and feel compelled to write about it. Actually I'm 5 tracks in as I begin typing so my early conclusion that along with Post War Glamour Girls, Money and Paul Thomas Saunders, My Sad Captains will be my new current favourite band may not last the distance; let's see. 

At the halfway point upcoming third album "Best of Times" seems to perfectly encapsulate all of my stupid romanticism and sombre reflection in sound.  In truth I don't often hear lyrics. it's the music that takes me so I can't exactly tell you what these songs are about, but I can tell you exactly how they make me feel and that's relaxed, engaged and at peace. 
The album opens with 'Familiar Ghosts', a whisper of a song with gentle caressing feedback over a steady beat. It's warm and comforting, melodic and satisfying. It brings to mind The Antlers or Broken Bells maybe. Track two is instrumental. Part of me wants 'Keep On Keeping On' to develop beyond its 3:42 but actually it repeats a simple and beautiful electronic melody and never outstays its welcome.  'Hardly There' at over 6 minutes long could land the band in trouble with trades descriptions but in some ways the title is apt as this is a song that delicately dances around your head with a tripping beat and soft vocal and not even a mid-song synth crescendo of Spiritualised proportions quite disturbs the happy musical slumber of this listener. 

Track 4 changes the mood a little, beginning as it does with a gently picked acoustic guitar. Vocals heavy with lazy reverb then enter making 'All In Your Mind' a woozy little gem.  

OK so the writing has now caught up with the music and at first I worry that 'Extra Curricular' might be the turning point, and not in a good way. It begins with a faster beat and for some reason it reminds me of 80's band A Flock Of Seagulls. However, it chugs along pleasantly and then declares it's beauty with an unexpected and lovely dose of brass to see it out; similar to The National's 'Fake Empire' if you like (and I do).  'All Times Into One' has a psychedelic instrumental opening and struggles really to impose itself with the hushed vocal style of Ed Wallis frustrating a little for the first time. Towards the end the sonics take over and wash out the vocal altogether. Hmm, not sold on that one. 

The last three tracks begin with 7 minute long 'In Time'. By now I'm hoping for a bit more variety in vocal tone or musical tempo but it's not to be. It's not that it's a boring or bad song but in the context of the album it's just another gentle romantic wistful musical dream. Actually I really like it when I later listen to it again as a stand alone song aside from the rest of the record. Maybe it would have been better to place this earlier in the album's running order. 'Wide Open' is not about the North Tyneside village. It is however nice to listen to whilst driving through said village, I'd imagine. Thankfully the vocal is in a higher pitch and the song acts as a melodic and pleasant wake up before the album's closer and lead single 'Goodbye'. If you've heard it then it's a good representation of the album as a whole, relaxed, gentle, tuneful and soft. It sounds like Wallis is looking for affection. He and his cohorts have mine. 

For fans of Of Montreal or Grandaddy maybe (that's all of you right?). Maybe the second half of the album didn't quite live up to early impressions but nevertheless a very enjoyable late night listen. 01:02 and now to bed. Or maybe I'll listen to some Money. 

Words: Russell Poad

DAVIDGE - Neil Davidge interview by Neil Pace

Neil Davidge’s musical heritage is a mighty impressive one. As a member of Massive Attack he played his part in three great albums, including the legendary Mezzanine. As a musical collaborator he has worked with David Bowie, Snoop Dogg and Damon Albarn. As the composer, arranger and producer of the soundtrack to Halo 4, Davidge is responsible for the highest charting video game soundtrack ever made.
As Neil prepares to launch his first solo album, Slo Light, he spoke to us about musical collaborations, album launch preparations, and some of the artists who have provided inspiration.
NE:MM: Slo Light feels epic in scope, did it take an epic length of time to write and record?
ND: Not really, at least in comparison to other albums I've made over the years. I think in total it took around 8 months although I had two song ideas before that. It might seem a long time compared to a typical 'band' album but for an electronic / sonic / cinematic album it's not a lot of time to write, record, arrange, programme and mix.
NE:MM: Where was the album recorded?
ND: Most of the album was recorded in or around Bristol, the majority in my apartment studio in the centre of town. A few of the vocals however were recorded elsewhere on the planet. 'Zero One Zero' and 'They Won't Know' were recorded in NYC, ‘Home From Home’ in Iceland (the country not the supermarket) and ‘Gallant Foxes’ in South Wales.
NE:MM: You’ve worked with many of the biggest names in music, how did the other artists on this album come to be involved?
ND: I came across them in various ways, by accident and through reaching out. I met Stephonik in NY when I was recording with Massive Attack, we were at a studio in Williamsburg with TV on the Radio. Cate Le Bon was recommended to me by the owner of Toy Box studios in Bristol. Claire Tchaikowski I met at a Temple Meads train station in Bristol, she was a friend of Andrew Morgan who'd been working for me on Halo 4 and the album. Karima Francis and I had written a few things together for her project in the past. Patrick Duff is local and someone I always fancied working with. We reached out to Ryan from Low Roar after Drew caught something with him YouTube, we finally tracked him down in Iceland. And Sandie Shaw... I've been a fan of hers since I was a kid, I dropped a list of people I'd like to work with to my management company and coincidentally her management had enquired the same day as to whether I would be interested in working with her. It's a bit of a list, most of the hook ups were really a matter of chance and ultimately chemistry.
NE:MM: Was the album conceived as an album from day one, or did it ‘become’ an album as the recording process progressed?
ND: I had the two songs before I decided to make an album but there was a conscious decision made and finance sought in order to make it happen. In part this album was conceived as a 'coming out' after years behind the scenery with Massive Attack but once the decision had been made it became personal and I sweated blood in order to make the best record I could.
NE:MM: Do you work exclusively on one project at a time or do you always have a number of projects on the go?
ND: I much prefer to do one thing at a time, when I put 100% into something (which I find it hard not to do) and then switch to something else I really struggle to make that transition, it really fucks with my head. I imagine it's a bit like those glasses that turn everything upside down, after a while the brain compensates so the person can see right side up, until they take them off again, in the periods of adjustment there's a lot of falling over and feeling nauseous... Even switching to normal life can be a challenge when I'm focused on an album or score so I try as best I can to factor that in and give myself a buffer. I'd say 9 times out of 10 I fail miserably to make that happen!
NE:MM: What kind of emotions do you experience during the weeks approaching an album’s release?
ND: The build up to this album release has been very different to any other album I've been involved in, principally because it's my album so I'm doing the interviews, checking artwork, videos etc. At the same time I've been working on a film score and as previously mentioned, I find it bloody hard to do more than one thing at a time. I've been working in the studio till 1 or 2 in the morning then coming home checking emails, approving artwork etc. That's 7 days a week, I even worked through the New Year. So, I've felt overwhelmed, excited, scared, happy, lonely, fired up... You name it, It's been a challenge to stay sane much of the time.
NE:MM: Who is your musical hero and why (and do you also admire them for other reasons beyond the musical ones)?
ND: I've been dreading this question because I honestly don't have one... I admire many musicians and artists work but I've never 'hero worshipped' anyone even when I was younger. From the Beatles to Bowie to Can to Radiohead, there's a very long list of artists and albums I keep going back to and have inspired me at some point in my life. I think it's the ingenuity and creativity of the human spirit in general that I find myself most in awe of and what keeps me striving to do better, that's all around me.
NE:MM: If you were to recommend to new listeners the artists who have inspired you, which of their works would you suggest starting with?
ND: Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band, Bitches Brew, Y, Tago Mago, OK Computer, Clair De Lune, Dummy, Solaris (Cliff Martinez score), Aladdin Sane, Absence.
Slo Light by Davidge is released on 3 March 2014 0n 7Hz Recordings. 
Check out the album review in NE:MM issue No. 7 

DENNIS - Live Theatre - March 15th 2014 - ** SPECIAL GIG PREVIEW **

In July 2012 popular local actor and founding member of Live Theatre, David Whitaker suffered a massive stroke whilst performing on the West End stage. It left him immobile and mute. 

David grew up in Houghton Le Spring and before his illness had enjoyed recent success in Lee Hall's comedy The Pitmen Painters in which he played miner Jimmy Floyd. 

David continues to require significant care and so to help fund therapy sessions that are so vital in aiding him regain some independence local folk/rock/brass ensemble Dennis have recorded a fundraising track 'Third Time Around' with the likes of Tim Healy and fellow actors/friends of David. 

A special launch gig will be held at The Live Theatre on 15th March 2014 with tickets just £7. 

Words: Russell Poad 


Small Engine Repair's debut full-length album is out since the 27th Jan. 'Serve yourself' is the name of it and contains 12 well worked and meticulously thought tracks . The band from Hereford formed by Phil Twigg, Tom Harrington, Pedro Kirk and Dan Lewis has recorded the album in the isolation of a house and the result has been somewhat interesting. They are classified inbetween Americana, Folk and Alternative; this album is a combination that brings along remarkable tunes that intend to dig deep with its lyrics.

After a seven track release in 2011 'An introduction to Small Engine Repair' and a Double Summer Single, the band decided to produce their debut album themselves. For those who never heard of them, and as they declare in their site, their name is a good hint. Always going for small and 'recycling' if possible: Small is beautiful. They like to think of themselves as an opposition to wider popular music that's lost strong and meaningful lyrics these days.

'Serve yourself' is a pleasant musical journey with unmissable stops. At least, where I'd stop. Not far, very first track 'Pretty Hateful' is one of my favourites. Simple but straight and with a twist of negative thinking. Those who like it will be happy to know that there's a reprise of it later on in the album. 'God's given up on him' obscure and rough spoken words that are worth a listen as well. Particularly enjoyed 'Beautiful fool' featuring an intense organ, emanating a feeling of melancholy.

There's little instrumental experiments such as 'Sweet Bleakness' and the song that name the album 'Serve Yourself' leaves you with a deep existencial dilemma. Phil's voice and guitar are leading roles as that was their intention. It's hard to tag them and that's probably a good thing. Good news is that there's no need to as long as there's something that makes you want to listen to them.
So now you know and if you feel like it it's easy, just serve yourself.

Words: Berta Manau

14 Feb 2014

BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB - Suren De Saram Interview by Nad Khan

“Maybe they thought it would kind of confuse people…it probably did to be fair [laughs]”.

Bombay Bicycle Club have always been a band to watch. The four lads from Crouch End like to push themselves and take risks, keeping fans on their toes. I asked drummer, Suren De Saram how they’ve managed to do what they want whilst keeping everyone happy. “Our label have been very good to us really, I mean considering it’s a major label. They’ve trusted us from the beginning and given us time to experiment.”

Moving away from the jangly indie-rock of 2009’s lead single ‘Always Like This’, the band made a decision that didn’t go down particularly well, releasing trimmed down second album, Flaws. “I think they [the label] were a bit unsure about us releasing an acoustic album as a follow up to our first. Maybe they thought it would kind of confuse people…it probably did to be fair [laughs]”.
It seems like they’ve took another gamble with their new album. ‘So Long See You Tomorrow’ sees the first time the band have taken full responsibility of their work. “We actually ended up self-producing the latest album, which wasn’t actually the original plan. So again the label were a little bit sceptical at the idea. But they let us go ahead with it and everyone’s happy with it.”
Naming things hasn’t always been the bands strength (they’re named after a chain of Indian Restaurants). The latest album title sounds more ‘archaic nicety’ than ‘progressive electronic project’. “That was actually Jamie, our guitarist’s suggestion and it’s from the name of a novel by William Maxwell, an American author. I think the book’s about a murder in the 1920’s, but the actual content of the book doesn’t really relate to the album at all.”
Sitting within the confines of one genre doesn’t seem to be on the bands agenda. Their sound has evolved through each subsequent release, showing that they don’t shy away from a more experimental approach. “On the last album we started introducing more electronics and playing around with sampling. Something like ‘Shuffle’ is kind of based around a chopped up piano sample. With ‘So Long…’ it’s taking those electronic and sampling aspects to the next level really”. 

Previous album, A Different Kind Of Fix, was heavily influenced by singer Jack Steadman’s solo material. Sampled and looped sounds merged with the rest of the bands instrumentation. Suren is keen to explain how those techniques have leaked into the new material. “A lot of songs on the album are quite loop based. The album as a whole is actually one big loop, because the very first melody you hear on the opening track is also the same melody you hear at the very end of the album.”

Lucy Rose has figured significantly in the bands output so far, using her soft, heartfelt vocal to the bands advantage. “Lucy is still singing on quite a lot of this album and there’s also a girl called Rae Morris (see new single ‘Luna’) who is a sort of up and coming singer-songwriter. Both Rae and Lucy are really great singers with very different voices”. The band seem to be really enjoying making music at the moment, following their creative voice. By the sounds of it, their latest risk has paid off too.

‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’ was released on the 3rd of February and the band will play Newcastle’s 02 Academy in March. 

MAXIMO PARK - HMV Newcastle - 6th February 2014

Hot on the heels of the success of their fifth album, Maximo Park returned to their place of genesis to deliver three in store events in Newcastle promoting their sixth offering, Too Much Information.  Starting at 3pm in Reflex, 4pm in RPM and 5pm in the flailing high street giant, HMV, the North East five piece played an intimate seven track set to the assembled crowds.

The room seemed a little thin on the ground at first – lucky then that they were a good twenty minutes late to take to the stage – but filled up to the back of the DVDs by the time the band took to the stage.  Bassist Archis was notable by his absence, as he is currently standing down from touring duties.  Picking up the bass reins was a tired-looking (yet very handsome) Paul Rafferty from Hot Club de Paris.

Taking to the stage with a hot chocolate in hand, Paul Smith wore his trademark suit and hat and prefaced their initial track with his usual self-effacing, mildly gauche yet thoroughly charming banter.  Starting with ‘Brain Cells’ from new release, Too Much Information, the band produced a darker more brooding sound than I’ve heard before.  Undercut with a dancier beat, the track was belted out despite the small venue and intimate feel of the group.  Introducing second track from the new album, ‘Leave This Island’, Smith invited us to make up stories ourselves with clues from the words.  And this is one of the things that Maximo Park do best: they produce intelligent, poetically written lyrics that complement perfectly their developing and increasingly experimental sound.  It’s great to experience them in such an informal setting as you can sense the song’s message through the body language and facial expressions of the band – a sight you’re not usually privy to in bigger venues where you’re separated by a crowd barrier.

Third song, ‘Lydia the Ink Will Never Dry’ showcased a variety of vocals and went down well with the otherwise pretty subdued crowd, even getting a few whoops.  Up next, debut album opener, ‘Signal and Sign’ was delivered with usual aggression and stage acrobatics.  It sounded a little less mature lyrically than the most recent tracks, but proved that a stomping drum beat and catchy riff can never age.  The pace slowed for ‘Midnight on the Hill’, (which is apparently in the same key as ‘Going Missing’, fact fans) a song about getting hot under the collar and a bit down and dirty in the car.  Fingers crossed it was written in a slightly more glamorous place than Lobley Hill, but who can say.

After a brief break for Paul to finish off his hot chocolate, the band launched into the last song from Too Much Information, ‘Where We’re Going’, an upbeat, wistful track about the future of relationships.  Rounding off the day was north-east crowd favourite, ‘By the Monument’; a number which finally got the crowd jigging around.  The band’s popularity was clear to see by the number who stayed behind and got their CD signed (myself included).  It’s not hard to see why: the new album is a heady mix of recognisable Maximo Park quirks, complemented by exploration into new genres, new musical motifs and lyrical themes.  It’s a fantastic follow up to The National Health and shows a band who are maturing as they grow and producing some of their finest work.

Words: Jennifer Westmoreland
Picture: Daniel Robson

10 Feb 2014

CARTHY, HARDY, FARRELL & YOUNG - Sage Gateshead - 7th February 2014

This show is something of a homecoming for this quartet of fabulous folky fiddlers as they reveal that it was as part of the Folkworks project, right here at the Sage, that they first came together. Also, we are told, Liza Carthy has just been appointed as the rather grandly titled "Artistic Associate" for the project and if all that breathless excitement isn't enough then we discover that this is the opening night of what Carthy refers to as their "brief but meaningful tour" consisting of just eight dates across the country culminating in the glamorous climes of Maidstone.

A fine album entitled "Laylam" appeared late in 2013 and it forms pretty much the entirety of the set  tonight. What we have is four female fiddles with four stupendous soaring voices and minimal occasional percussion provided by Carthy's thumping bass drum and some gentle ankle percussion from Kate Young. They launch into the opening track from the album "Greasy Coat", a speedy romp through a list of stuff that these gals ain't gonna do at all. The voices soar and lock into some superb harmony with a huge uplifting chorus and layers of intricate fiddle playing.

All four musicians look happy to be up on the stage and the set is peppered with chat and smiles and they work to involve the full house in their banter. Carthy gets to show off her shoes purchased 20 years ago but never worn until tonight (!) and very splendid they look too. The songs are drawn from a variety of sources and include a superb take on the old Patsy Cline classic 'Walkin' After Midnight'  which hovers between country and folk with a fine spine-tingling vocal from Bella Hardy. Also we get a gorgeous 'Sally Free and Easy" with a heartfelt Farrell vocal with some beautiful fiddle underpinning the sad tale of woe. 'Chickens in the Garden' which Liza learned from her Uncle Michael, provides a humorous interlude with a tale about a Yorkshire framer and his daughters romantic intentions. Fine stuff.

The highlight comes around mid set with a simply stunning 'Why Don't You Do Right' that has the most beautiful four-part harmony sailing over the heavenly melody. Buddy Miller's 'Wide River' , also covered by the great Levon Helm, is another superb Farrell performance that illustrates that the quartet reside somewhere in the regions between country and folk and can't accurately be pinned down. Carthy's song 'June is the Coldest Month' is another peak with a touch of saw playing from Farrell that gives the song an ethereal quality with a haunting edge to it.

During the albums title track 'Laylam', which Carthy points out, isn't actually on the album, the fiddlers look as they are going to get into a Status Quo type huddle at the front of the stage. Thankfully they manage to avoid this rockiest move and encore with a gorgeous a-Capella 'Better Home' and, after much bowing and waving, they are off into the night still smiling. This was an excellent evening’s entertainment from a supremely talented quartet.

Words & Photo: Greg Johnson


Born on the anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s death, Whitley Women’s Community Choir was always going to have something of a ‘Wonderland’ feel about it. Both events occurred on January 14th – the choir formed in 2009 and Carroll’s death in 1898.

Happy coincidence, you might think?

But, in a world where coincidence is brushed aside as an every day occurrence, Whitley Women’s Community Choir simply couldn’t ignore one other fact. A fact so amazing that they had to get out the calculator.

By sheer chance, plumb in the middle of 2014, the North Tyneside based choir will also have been singing together for exactly 2014 days. 

The coincidences are starting to stack up.

Having sung at many prestigious locations, including Alnwick Garden, Seaton Delaval Hall and The Sage, Gateshead, the choir, led by Gilly Love, and who have entertained all over the North East, couldn’t believe the statistic and so have prepared an uplifting repertoire to help celebrate their ‘2014 Days of Song.’

First up is an international event. Invited by Eurokoor, a hugely successful choir based in The Netherlands who perform all over Europe, Whitley Women are off to Amsterdam and Leiden. ‘Adventures in The Netherlands’, you could say. On 28th March, they are to sing with Eurokoor in a specially commissioned event in Leiden, followed by an outdoor sing at the celebrated Keukenhof Flower Gardens in Lisse, South East of Amsterdam.

Music Leader, Gilly, said, “Keukenhof is the most beautiful spring garden in the world, with more than seven million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths, filling over 32 hectares with spectacular colour and fragrance. It is the perfect place to fill the air with beautiful springtime music.”

Upon their return, Whitley Women go immediately into rehearsals for a spring-time concert on home turf. This time they will perform on April 11th at St Andrew’s Church in Monkseaton, where a full house is expected for their ‘Happy Together’ production, where you can expect to hear a fusion of classic and contemporary music, including a special ‘2014 Days of Song’ series of medlies from the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties. Many of the songs will be familiar, including ‘Make You Feel My Love’, ‘I’ll Be There’, ‘Ashgrove’ and ‘Only You’. Not only will there be music and entertainment, but a generous raffle and the chance for a sing-along with a subsidised glass of wine.

If that doesn’t have you grinning like a Cheshire Cat, then later in the year, the choir are pulling together a summer spectacular to continue their ‘2014 Days of Song.’ They are in the process of mounting a photo exhibition and a ‘Song Stories’ event which will celebrate their time together and the ‘Wonderland’ nature of singing together.

The choir is always happy to welcome new members – and there are no auditions. Meetings are twice a week and all women are welcome regardless of age or experience.

Tickets for the ‘Happy Together’ event on April 11th are available by contacting the website, or please telephone Meg on 07542 524345

Words: Lesley Anne Collins

2 Feb 2014

MICHAEL WOODS - East Coast Fret

One of the (many) great joys of writing for NE:MM is the opportunity to discover artists that, under normal, musically blinkered, circumstances you’d never get to hear about.

So when the chance arose to listen to Michael Woods’ new album, East Coast Fret, I grabbed it with both ears because it sounded intriguing. A local guitarist who has been playing blues professionally for 20 years records an album of original guitar instrumentals inspired by the North East of England. Be honest, you’re a little bit curious now too.

Across 14 tracks Michael takes us on a musical journey around many of the landmarks we know and love, from the wonderfully evocative opening tune, a two-parter entitled ‘Blink of an Eye’ inspired by the Millennium Bridge to the lively ‘Celebration March’ which recalls Michael’s fond memories of Durham Miners’ Galas and is one of the album’s many high points.

Along the way we take in ‘Salters Bridge’, Split Crow Road’ (where Michael bought his first guitar in 1975), ‘Tin School Rag’ which pays tribute to the now demolished Tin School at Gilesgate Moor that Michael attended as a boy and ‘Haddricks Mill’ a slow, beautiful tune with musicianship of a quality rarely heard in 2014.

Best on offer though are the title track, ‘East Coast Fret’ in which Michael picks his way through a lively tune in a way that sounds marvelously technically accomplished and fantastically lazy at the same time and the all too brief ‘Lady Jane’ which brings the album to a close on a note of deep melancholy.

Michael will be premiering works from this new album at 7.30pm on Friday 7 February at St. Mary’s Heritage Centre, Gateshead. It’s an opportunity definitely not to be missed!

Words: Neil Pace

DES TEMPS ANTAN - Sage Gateshead - 30th January 2014

This energetic trio of Quebec musicians is playing their first ever English show tonight at Sage Gateshead but, disappointingly, although they have been tramping the byways of Canada and Ireland since 2003 there is hardly a mention of them out in cyberspace. This is a shame as they are a highly skilled and dynamic band that combine several different genres and deliver a warm hearted and spellbinding show.

With a cheery shout of "Gateshead, Bon Soir" they head off at quite a gallop taking in Irish jigs, blues, R&B and some excellent Cajun gumbo. The trio have some strong original features including underfoot percussion (you need to hear AND see it), slide bouzouki, and soaring vocals. Its a shame they are confined to a seated venue as were they to be let loose in a steamy bar the place would explode with energy.

Their fabulous melodic repertoire takes in ballads, jigs, reels and some authentic foot stomping. The combination of guitar, fiddle, accordion, harp and bouzouki makes for a storming evening. With a stream of stupendous series of laments, ballads and occasional a-cappella vocals this is a night to remember. 

Words: Greg Johnson

OUTFIT - The Cluny, Newcastle - 23rd January 2014

I really like Outfit’s debut album ‘Performance’ even though electro-pop (of a Hot Chip kind) is not my usual thing. The band have been promoted as an enigmatic bunch, with minimal PR and maximum mystery which leads you to conclude that they might be a bit socially awkward. Not a bit of it, it turns out. These are loveable Scousers with trademark Liverpudlian sense of humour and an infectious enthusiasm for live performance. 

They were given very able support tonight by openers Lionhall who deal in sparse arrangements juxtaposed with Ana’s soulful and searing vocals. 

Locals Tessera Skies also put on a great show, with new songs aired publicly for the first time proving they’ll have longevity. 

A decent crowd welcomed Outfit onto the stage at 10pm for a set lasting 50 minutes that drew heavily on the aforementioned album. The band were chatty and exuberant, whilst the music transformed into something more joyfoul than on record. 

Highlights were the album’s title track, ‘Nothing Big’ ‘I Want What’s Best’ - a song about indecision (I think) and early e.p. favourite ‘Dashing In Passing.’ 

So, a really good gig and I left wondering why Outfit are promoted as enigmatic when they should maybe be touted as the ‘Pet Shop Boys of the noughties.’

Words: Russell Poad