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By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 1st July 2015 at 6:00 pm
Glen Hansard has announced he will be releasing his second solo album ‘Didn’t He Ramble’ on Anti- Records on the 18th of September, so tonight we have for you a teaser from the Irishman’s forthcoming release. Premiering yesterday as an NPR First Watch, ‘Winning Streak’ is described by director Braden King:
Glen and I talked a lot about the way in which every life is a fight, a struggle. No matter who you are. No matter what you do. They’re all different and they all never end. For me, the song is about that struggle we all face in our own ways and about who has your back along the way. There is no end to it. We may get momentary rests along the way but they are fleeting. We all have to get up again and get back into the ring. And you know, sometimes, those who are the hardest on us are the ones who get us through. The way this turned out, the song kind of became the spirit of this place, the blood running through all these boxers veins. And I love the way in which Glen haunts and inspires it all.
Glen Hansard’s one announced tour date for the autumn is for the 21st of October at London Shepherds Bush Empire, which is currently the end of his European tour that kicks off the 29th of September at Paris La Cigale. Watch the video for ‘Winning Streak’ below.
Last Wednesday night found me once again westbound on Interstate 10 to Phoenix, this time to see Northern Irish singer/songwriter Foy Vance at the downtown Valley Bar. I was headed to a new venue, but the road was familiar and so was the headline artist, whom I’d seen twice before, once in the cozy Washington DC area venue Jammin’ Java and once in a rather uncomfortable stadium-sized atmosphere in Atlanta, where he opened for Ed Sheeran. Vance spent May and early June this year again gracing American stages with the ginger-haired pop phenom, parting company with his friend and colleague to headline a handful of dates across the southern half of the U.S. before heading back across the pond. Phoenix was fortunate enough to host one of these more intimate shows, with Vance accompanied by fellow Northern Irish singer Ryan McMullan.
McMullan’s Ulster accent was immediately apparent as he introduced himself to the small Valley Bar crowd, but over the course of his set, we were regaled with songs of a decidedly American inclination. He engaged us immediately with opening track ‘Listen’ from his soulful blues rock-flavoured EP of the same title. McMullan interspersed the four tracks from that EP with his appealing debut single ‘Mary’, a peppy cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’ and a rather quaint traditional American Creole song called ‘The Lakes of Pontchartrain’, most famously recorded by Northern Irish traditional folk musician Paul Brady. In the fashion of a more seasoned performer, McMullan saved his most impressive moment for last, giving a scorching performance of ‘Holding Me Down’, which in live performance smashed through the relative restraint of the studio version below.
And then, after a brief interlude, the Valley Bar congregation were ready to receive the gospel according to Foy Vance. Taking his position behind the pulpit, er, piano, Vance quickly made himself comfortable and began not to sing but instead to speak. Before diving headlong into a set of new songs, Vance asked us to keep our phones and cameras put away, both so that we could enjoy being in the present moment with him and to avoid having “shit versions” of the new songs going up on YouTube before they could be properly recorded and released. I cringed internally, because this request always strikes me as overly precious, no matter how many times I hear it.
However, on this particular night, in this particular setting, Vance genuinely practised what he preached, quite literally losing himself in a seamless sequence of five opening tracks, including four new songs and the already popular anthem ‘Closed Hand, Full of Friends’. Among the new songs were a gorgeous ode to the city of London and a blistering blues guitar number played later in the show, both of which have enormous potential for a possible future studio recording.
Speaking of the guitar, Vance switched instruments and gears for the second half of the show, picking up the pace with a few familiar tunes from his 2013 album ‘Joy of Nothing’, as well as recent hit ‘Make It Rain’ and a track from his 2007 LP ‘Hope’ called ‘Doesn’t Take a Whole Day’, which turned out to be among the more charming moments in the set. Not content with his own array of songs, Vance also burned through a mind-boggling run of covers late in the show, including Van Morrison’s ‘Crazy Love’, Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman, No Cry’ and a version of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘I’m on Fire’ that can be best described as orgasmic. While Vance’s younger Ed Sheeran-influenced fans might have lost interest at this point in the show, for those of us who recognized the original songs, Vance’s display of musical prowess here was nothing short of spectacular.
Rather than insisting on a proper encore, Vance took only a brief moment off stage before declaring to eager applause, “I want to keep playing, shall we just get on with it?” As the clock approached midnight, Vance wrapped up the evening with ‘At Least My Heart Was Open’ and the by now customary singalong ‘Guiding Light’, which saw McMullan reappear for a brief cameo before the flock of Foy Vance faithful reluctantly called it a night.
Foy Vance will play the Barn on the Farm Festival in Gloucester on the 4th of July and Ireland’s Indiependence Music Festival in Cork on the 2nd of August. He will support Ed Sheeran at Wembley Stadium on the 10th of July as well as joining Sheeran’s Australian tour in November and December. While in Australia, Vance will also play a support slot for Elton John in Brisbane on the 8th of December. You can find a complete list of live dates and ticket information on Vance’s official Web site.
Previous TGTF coverage of Foy Vance can be found right back here.
Having been surrounded by music from an early age, Glasgow-born Christopher Duncan (better known by his alias C Duncan) is an up-and-coming singer/songwriter. With classical musicians for parents, C Duncan was encouraged to learn the viola and the piano as a child, before taking up guitar, bass guitar and the drums during his school days. He then went on to obtain a degree in composition from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, whose notable alumni include James McAvoy, Alison Brie and David Tennant.
In December 2014, C Duncan released his first single ‘For’, a slow-paced arrangement with hypnotic vocals. The track, along with his follow-up ‘Say’, received high praise from the likes of Lauren Laverne, Huw Stephens, Vic Galloway, Steve Lamacq, Ricky Ross and Clive Anderson (on Loose Ends). Other supporters of C Duncan include BBC 6Music, Radcliffe and Maconie, The Guardian, NME and Amazing Radio. His music has also been played on various television programmes, including BBC1’s Waterloo Road.
Not only is C Duncan a talented musician, but he is also an accomplished painter, having had his work exhibited at galleries throughout Scotland. Highly influenced by Grant Wood and Gerhard Richter, C Duncan provides the cover art for his own records, expressing the same musical ideas through painted image.
One of the cover arts he has painted himself was for his upcoming debut album ‘Architect’, which features a detailed and stylised aerial view of a Glasgow side street. The album was written and recorded in C Duncan’s Glasgow flat on a bedroom studio setup, gradually adding each layer and each instrument one at a time. Despite being a time-consuming process, this allowed him to lovingly assemble the intricacies and subtleties for his collection of music.
You can listen to C Duncan’s debut album, Architect, when it is released on Friday, the 17th of July on FatCat Records. A day later, C Duncan will be the support act for Belle and Sebastian’s huge, outdoor concert at London Somerset House.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 30th June 2015 at 6:00 pm
If you’re thinking to yourself it’s been a while since Lianne La Havas‘ debut album was released, you’re right. (It was in 2012.) Whether the delay has to do with her lack of prolificness in writing songs, Real Life rearing its ugly head or any of a multitude of reasons, you might be pleased to learn that the follow-up to the mega successful ‘Is Your Love Big Enough?’, ‘Blood’, will see the light of day on the 31st of July.
‘What You Don’t Do’ is a teaser from the upcoming Warner Brothers album; on it, La Havas croons over a jazzy piano tune and driving drums. There’s no mistaking in this video who you’re supposed to be fixated on, it’s almost a joke in that respect. I hope it was the label and not the artist herself who wanted a promo like this? Watch the video for the song below.
Past coverage on Lianne La Havas on TGTF is here.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 30th June 2015 at 4:00 pm
This year, on the 21st of June (aka World Music Day), Scottish rock duo Honeyblood spent the day doing a ‘flash tour’ of London as part of the Dr. Martens’ #STANDFORSOMETHING campaign. Over the course of their 10 hours in the British capital city, they performed four gigs, in Camden (The Hawley Arms), on Denmark Street (Wanjo Guitars), a skatepark in South Bank and in Peckham (Bussey Bar). You can watch a sneak peek into all the action of the day in the video below.
Keen on reading more on Honeyblood on TGTF? Follow this link.
An Americana band from Sheffield? Can that be a genuine thing? As it turns out, the answer is a resounding yes. With the release of their second full-length album, The Payroll Union have established themselves as serious contenders in the indie folk genre as well as honing a more specific proficiency in analyzing U.S. history by using a style of music that is typically associated with America. The band’s first two EPs, ‘Underfed and Underpaid’ and ‘Your Obedient Servant’, both released in 2011, established the foundational exploration of American history that continues to inform their work, including 2013 debut LP ‘The Mule and The Elephant’ and their new album ‘Paris of America’.
The album’s title refers to the city of Philadelphia, nicknamed the “Athens of America” for its cultural and political atmosphere in the time period immediately following the American Revolution. Philadelphia’s history took a violent turn in the so-called ‘riot era’ of the 1830s and 1840s, when eruptions of hostility and aggression fed by racial, social and economic upheaval agitated the city in what might be considered aftershocks of the revolution in France some 50 years earlier. The Payroll Union’s academic and artistic endeavours in the making of ‘Paris of America’ were supported by the Arts Enterprise project at the University of Sheffield, which led the band’s lead singer and songwriter Pete David to collaborate with filmmakers, illustrators, other musicians and most notably historian Dr. Andrew Heath, on a project titled ‘Faith and Fear in Philadelphia’.
Thematically, the songs on ‘Paris of America’ take an alternative and character-specific approach to illustrating the anguish and turmoil of the time period, telling deeply emotional stories with careful and fascinating attention to detail. Musically, there is a strong and unsettling sense of dramatic tension throughout the album. Anxiously persistent bass and percussion rhythms buttress piercing electric guitar riffs and the deep, menacing baritone of David’s vocals, which are particularly effective in the recurrent moments of fire and brimstone imagery.
The album’s opening track ‘The Ballad of George Shiffler’ takes on the passionate perspective of Nativist militants vowing revenge for the killing of one of their young members in an anti-Catholic riot. The final verse is a broad call to arms, “do not remain in mourning long, the fighting does not cease / we’ll pull down every headstone, whether commodore or priest / so sing this song for years to come, George Shiffler is his name / a gentleman, American, who fought the papists’ claim”, while the chorus, “we light the sky” is an anthemic rallying cry.
While most of the tracks on ‘Paris of America’ are forcefully immediate in their passion and fervor, ‘Winter of ‘41’ is, by necessity, a bit more introspective, though no less dramatic than the others, as it details author James Fennimore Cooper’s account of an unusually long and bitterly cold winter that brought Philadelphia to a standstill. The song’s slow 8-minute evolution starts with a delicate, ethereal keyboard melody under through-composed verses that seem somehow appropriate to the poetry of the time period: “The winter of ’41, it lasted oh so long, it lasted through the spring / we almost weakened in the frost, frozen in our fear, paralysed by loss”.
First single ‘The Mission Field’ is the jaded narrative of a Protestant minister, who points out the sin and depravity of the people he is tasked to save. The turbulent percussion tumbles through his multifaceted examination of how civil unrest has affected the city of Philadelphia, exposing personal flaws to daylight and judgment before descending into a chaotic milieu of background vocals.
After exploring the growing divide between Philadelphia’s social classes in ‘Wo Unto Sodom’ and ‘Blood or Bread’, the album looks ahead in history to an even greater period of unrest, the American Civil War. Its final track is a resigned and melancholy piano ballad called ‘The 6th’, which refers to a regiment of black soldiers who volunteered to join the fight for their freedom.
As you have probably already deduced, ‘Paris of America’ isn’t an album designed for casual Sunday afternoon listening. Though the songs fully elucidate the context of historical drama and tension all on their own, their sophisticated level of detail will likely inspire, or indeed require, a bit of background research for listeners who are unfamiliar. The Payroll Union have with this album proved a remarkably high level of dedication to both the intellectual and emotional aspects of their craft with character portrayals that are both historically accurate and, at the heart of it all, profoundly human.
The Payroll Union’s second album ‘Paris of America’ is out now via Backwater Collective.
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