- Date: 20th May, 2017
- Line-up: Hattie Briggs with special guest Jasmine Scott Neale, Matt and Harry Lloyd (Waiting For Smith)
- Location: The WInemaker's Club, Farringdon
- Date: 6th May, 2017
- Line-up: Jess Morgan with special guests Tom Hartley Booth and Sarah Howells (Byrde/Paper Aeroplanes)
- Location: The Winemakers Club, Farringdon
EP LAUNCH - DOUBLE HEADER
- Date: 9th April, 2017
- Line-up: Tracey Browne, Emma Ballantine, John Parker and Anthony Bealing with special guest Raevennan Husbandes
- Location: Green Note, Camden
Another night at The Green Note, another affirmation that Laurel Canyon Music are a force to be reckoned with in music promotion and another sold out audience to listen to two talented musicians who both have something to say that we should be listening to.
Tracey Browne is a Cambridge raised, Manchester based, musician who was making her first appearance at The Green Note and the audience easily took to her relaxed, friendly style and charmingly personal songs. Although she says she tries to write a variety of songs there is a theme that runs through them, of the person who wants to be themselves but with an undertow of uncertainty about exactly what they are capable of. Her first full album in 2012 was titled "Everyone is Ordinary" and we got plenty of song that people can relate to.
"Paradise Found", from that album, opened the set and is an up-tempo, almost pop, song that should be about love but becomes a song about the decisions and balancing act that comes with a relationship.
Also from that album "Under the Radar" was a delightfully bouncy tune that could have been written about the Blind Date From Hell. How do you avoid somebody you took an instant dislike to as it saved a lot of time?
Tracey works extensively with other musicians as well, including Thea Gilmore, and on the night was joined by co-writer Raevennan Husbandes (Moulettes) for a couple of songs that had a very positive feel about them.
The long, and deserved, applause at the end of the set suggests this will not be Tracey's last appearance at the venue and hopefully she will come back with her new album "Doctrine of Song" currently being crowd-funded through Kickstarter with a closing date of 2nd May. It's well on its way to the target and. based on the songs from it played on the night, it deserves to succeed.
After the interval it was time for Emma Ballantine to take to the stage. Like Tracey, Emma is skilled on both guitar and piano but was was also joined on the night by John Parker (Double Bass) and Anthony Bealing (Drums).
The core of Emma's set was her new EP "Somebody's Story" which is based on real life events people have told her about and she has set to music. The four chosen for the EP cover a whole range of human experience from heartwarming to heartbreaking. They all show bravery in different ways; from doing the right thing despite a very real danger, to risking everything for love, dealing with disability and coping with loss.
What made these songs even more powerful was that Emma read out the stories, as told to her, before each song so we got the whole background in the person's own words before listening. Some of the people were in the audience that night and having them there gave a real sense of contact, a tangible history. It is something I hope Emma will do in future when she tells these tales, because they deserve to be told.
Mention must also go to Nick, on sound for the night. One of the songs, "Through Your Eyes", is based on a story sent in by the mother of an autistic child who has learnt from her son that there are fresh ways to see the world. He's also a musician and Nick worked some of his music into the song, patching through the computer and getting the timing spot-on.
Each of the four songs has a different sound to it, as well, from the folk feel of Harmonise to the electro-pop of Secret Tunnel. Emma gives a lot of the credit for this to producer Luke Mosely who has done what a good producer should and move the performer out of their comfort zone, encouraging them to take risks and innovate. "Somebody's Story" is now released, available from the usual sources and has been making waves, including topping singer-songwriter charts.
What links them all is Emma's evocative singing, towards the soprano range and beautiful controlled. She gave life to these and the other songs as well as and, like Tracey, kept the audience involved throughout the night. We were the audience but also part of the performance.
All credit to Tracey and Emma for giving us a great night of music, and to Laurel Canyon for making it happen.
Words & Pictures: Tony Birch (FATEA)
- Date: 5th April, 2017
- Line-up: Danni Nicholls band with special guests the Rob Corcoran Trio
- Location: St Pancras Old Church, London
I first saw Danni Nicholls supporting Luke Tuchscherer, both are Bedfordshire based musicians, several years ago and was immediately impressed by her gutsy blues style and was very pleased to come home with her début album "A Little Redemption", first released in 2013 Then came the second album "Mockingbird Lane" in 2015 which confirmed Danni as one to watch So, as soon as "The Vintage TV Recordings" album release was announced I knew I wanted to be there. What also helped make my mind up was the venue; St Pancras Old Church is gaining a growing reputation for good music, helped by its excellent acoustics. As an added bonus the evening was curated by Gary Smith of Laurel Canyon Music, with Graham Jackson helping on the night, whose efforts at encouraging music in an innovative way were recognised with a nomination in the 2016 FATEA awards.
The evening was a good example of where independent music could be going in the future. It wasn't just about an artist and promoter getting together to put on a show. It became a multi-media event and then reached out into the wider community. St Pancras Church, still an active Parish church, were obviously key players and and Brendan Collins, who deals with the the music for SPOC was running the bar. Vintage TV helped pull the whole album together, with Time Out's Ray Jones doing a great job as MC and Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy will benefit with £1 donated from each album sold.
Opening the evening the very good support set from Rob Corcoran, a Dubliner now London based, was worth the entry fee on it's own. Rob is difficult to pin down to genre, there's certainly some Blues and Americana in the mix but also influences of Irish tradition. Whatever the label the results are rather beautiful songs about the human condition where the narrator knows he has flaws and doesn't pretend it's anyone's fault but his own.
Just picking a few examples of his work "Black Hearted Man" sets the scene as a lament warning the girl that loving him will do her no good. "Hurts Me Too" also stood out. This is a break-up song but written from the point of view of the perpetrator who points out, quite rightly, that splitting up is never easy for anyone. "The Boozer's Lament" is another example of a flawed man who meets a barmaid, but his drinking is the problem in the relationship. Drink both brought them together and drove them apart, he knows that but can do nothing about it.
Rob was joined on stage by Barbara Bartz on violin and Hjordis Moon Badford on cahon and backing vocals. Together they produced a beautiful set, one that I can hopefully catch again in the future. Rob also has an EP, 'The Heart, The Head and the Long Since Dead' another another studio album on the way.
The interval gave everyone a chance to catch up with friends, visit the well attended merch table and sample some rather delicious cupcakes. My last two gigs have involved home baking and certainly adds a glow to the evening.
So to the main event and the launch of the album. This was recorded at various London shows and features songs from both studio albums. The entire album was played on the night along with a few other songs. It was also my first chance to see Danni play with a full band of the excellent Max Milligan (guitar), Flow Toulman (drums), Stewart Noakes (keys) and Robbie Stewart-Mathews (bass), with Barbara Bartz returning for a couple of numbers.
The full band certainly added to the night, filling the auditorium with sound yet doing exactly what a band should do and complimenting the lyrics. Simon the Soundman did an excellent job balancing it all out.
The set opened with "Long Road Home", followed by "Let Somebody Love You", the opening two tracks on Mockingbird Lane. They're different songs but show Danni's vocal range well and are guaranteed to get the audience coming along with the show. We were then given the up-beat, almost happy, "Hey There, Sunshine" from the first album which is a real toe-tapper. They all demonstrate Danni's core interest which is the bluesy Americana she does so well.
That was enough cheerfulness to going on with so the middle section of the set was a series of break-up songs to tug at the heartstrings, ending with what I think is her best song to date; the beautiful "Leaving Tennessee ". Written on a coach journey between Tennessee and Georgia it's a pure Country song telling the story of a girl saying goodbye to her past and broken heart as she tries a start a new life.
One of the things I love about live music is that an artist can rehearse as much as they want but that doesn't guarantee everything will go right. A broken string could have caused problems, but didn't and it demonstrates what a nice bunch musicians are. Rob Corcoran stepped forward to lend his guitar and, with a little bit of tuning and some swapping around, we were off again. There was no ego, no "I'm the star", just lovely people helping and looking out for each other. Of course, they're real musicians, too, who've learnt their trade from the ground up over the years so they take this kind of thing in their stride and just carry on. It was wonderful to see.
As always the set went by far too quickly but we had a double encore of "Travelling Man" and the ideal parting song of "Goodnight Moon". The final slow Country ballad allowed the audience to slowly return to the real world after several hours of escape.
"Goodnight moon, goodnight stars,
Goodnight all broke down cars
I'm going away
I'm leaving soon
Goodnight darling, goodnight moon."
Danni is touring extensively in the near future, on many dates supporting Shakin' Stevens, so do get the chance to see her if you can.
Words & Pictures: Tony Birch (FATEA)
- Date: 15th March, 2017
- Location: The Green Note, Camden
- Line-up: Liv Austen and Darren Hodgson of The Southern Companion with special guest Jessica Sharman.
- Date: 3rd March, 2017
- Line-up: Megan & The Common Threads with special guest Harry Pane
- Location: The Sound Lounge, Tooting
NDEPENDENT MUSIC DAY
- Date: 24th February, 2017
- Line-up: Fred's House, Kadia, Forty Elephant Gang, Hattie Whitehead, Hannah White & Keiron Marshall.
- Venue: The Sound Lounge, Tooting
Independent Music day is a new venture which aims to promote independent music, and the venues that support it, right across the UK. It is activism at its very best, getting people to get out and watching live music. For its first ever day on the 24th February over 40 promoters came together to arrange concerts, which is huge success and a solid base to build on for the future.
My chosen destination for the night was a new venue for me, mainly because it didn't exist in 2016. The Sound Lounge in Tooting, South London used to be a bed shop which closed down some 10 years ago and has been boarded up ever since. After Christmas work started on turning it into an exciting new music venue in London. For that reason, if no other, it deserves to be a success. It's certainly easy to get to, being just a few minutes walk from either Tooting tube station.
The Sound Lounge is a large space but intelligently thought out. The well stocked bar serves smoothies, local craft beers, vegetarian and vegan food at average-for-London prices and occupies one wall opposite the stage. Seating is a mixture of theatre style and tables giving a choice of viewing options and a chance to eat in comfort. The walls are light painted, with pictures and murals giving a very airy feeling and opening up the space even more. It has a warm feeling, though, helped by copious amounts of upcycled scaffold boards which are use to clad everything from the shop front to the sound desk, bar and stage giving a sense of continuity to the whole thing. The night I was there both the lighting and sound quality were excellent.
The concert was promoted by Laurel Canyon Music, who are rapidly gaining a reputation for quality music across London, ranging from St Pancras Old Church to The Winemakers Club and several others. Good music is guaranteed. The event was also supported by FATEA magazine and Blues and Roots Radio, both of whom are almost fanatical in their support of independent artists.
So, on to the event itself. The host for the evening was Brian Player, known to may for his Acoustic Café radio show. He has a relaxed style that invites you in to sit down with something comforting, knowing you're amongst friends and will enjoy yourself. The impressively large audience certainly did.
Five acts on the night meant an early start, resulting in me missing all but the last song by Hannah White & Keiron Marshall but what I did catch sounded good and I hope to be able to see them again in the future.
Second up was Hattie Whitehead, who is gaining a growing reputation. This was my first chance to see her and I was impressed. It was a gentle, soulful performance and Hattie has such a lovely voice it really was a delight to listen to her. She's somebody else I will certainly hope to see again.
The vagaries of travel meant that Kadia (from Dorset) got to the venue quicker than Forty Elephant Gang (from East London), so they swapped places on the bill. Kadia can only be described as stylish, with classy harmonies both vocal and instrumental. We were treated to songs from their début album 'East of Alexandria' and, even better, the band have been in the studio producing a new EP to be launched in April. They play traditional folk but in a way that sounds so fresh that seeing them is always a delight.
Forty Elephant Gang were another new act for me. It was a sparkling set combining music from across the genres with a clean, tight sound and the stage presence that comes from three friends enjoying what they do. They also have a début album on the horizon which is certainly worth checking out.
Finally, Fred's House took to the stage and ripped the place up in the way only they can. Full bore, powerful tunes, great harmonies and an energy that is infectious. The audience were soon clapping and stamping along and there was even some dancing in the aisles.
It was a wonderful, and fitting, celebration of independent music at its very best and I hope there were a few newcomers in the room who are converted and will spread the word. Huge thanks are owed to all involved in the evening but special mention must go to Gary Smith of Laurel Canyon Music for all the work he puts in to bring us great music.
Organisers, Promoters and Supporters
Words & Pictures: Tony Birch (FATEA)