Irish Rock Album Solas is this The Answer

Irish Rock album Solas is this The Answer

Irish Rock Album Solas is this The Answer

Do not confuse the title with anything maritime! Solas is Irish Gaelic for Light, not the acronym – Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). With that clarified what about the music on their seventh studio album Solas? If you expect Rock with a loud shout you  will be disappointed. If you want light-rock fused with roots of Irish folk, lyrics that curl around with melodic intensity you are in the right listening zone.

The Answer, have taken one helluva musical journey over the ten years since the debut album Rise with its blues-infused rock.  Now on Solas the exploration of their Gaelic heritage in the musical tone and lyrical shaping full of misty mysticism, fear of the dark, hidden regrets and the light of hope is apparent.

Opening with the title track with a wave of sound or percussion that feels like a wave, James Heatley’s relentless drumming is the backdrop for Cormac Neeson’s vocals.  The chorus is melodic full of Celtic harmonies flowing as the music takes you deep into the soul of the band, their experiences and reflecting the light of Solas. The guitar work is huge as the number closes with a lead break that promises much from Paul Mahon.  Rock firmly rooted in the traditional shapes Beautiful World with its captivating opening chords full of Eastern promise. That opens up with instrumentation with the energy of rock contained to be played at eight, not eleven. The result is the lyrics dominate and it is the voice that is the main instrument, with Micky Water’s bass, along with the guitar and drums playing a supporting role filling in the gaps acting as lead breaks for the words.

Yes, now three tracks in this Irish-infused rock harnessing tones and textures from the folk tradition. The Answer, on Solas have a story to be told and heard. The ballad Battle Cry, this will be fantastic live as the audience picks up the chorus and lifts the spirits of all hearing the music. This is Irish folk-rock that fills the heart with melodic joy as Gaelic merges with the English. Half-way through Thief of Light takes us with mandolin and Celtic harmonious riffs far away with a reflective sound, that reminds us that sometimes we need to start again as if the dark is to be conquered and energy regained.

Then, a change of musical shape with Being Begotten as we head to a blues-infused Southern Swamp leaving the emerald-green of Irishness. This blues-infused feel reflecting their debut album Rise is found again with Southern-rock Demon Driven Man, with a rock n’ roll upbeat feel upfront and full of energy.

The three bonus tracks have an acoustic feel In This Land, Light In The Darkness both full of folk-inspired chords and structure and then a fuzzy reinterpretation of Pink Floyd’s Money.

The Answer on Solas deliver reflective rock, light and at times whimsical not something to play loud and hard but to sit and enjoy. Reflecting the turmoil of life and the need to go back to their roots and bring pure Irish gold into their rock. This is Rock that has a gentler edge softened by the winds of time and gives you space to reflect before cranking up the volume with a rock offering from a different part of The Answer’s journey or someone else in your collection.

That said Solas definitely has a place in your rock collection bridging rock with tradition. It is an album you will return to and on every occasion, your appreciation of the subtleties will grow as you hear more of the clever lyrics missed on the last outing.

The Answer – Solas – Napalm Records

NINE pawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN ….

Track Listing

        1. Solas
        2. Beautiful World
        3. Battle Cry
        4. Untrue Colour
        5. In This Land
        6. Thief Of Light
        7. Being Begotten
        8. Left Me Standing
        9. Demon Driven Man
        10. Real Life Dreamers
        11. Tunnel
        12. In This Land
        13. Light In Darkness
        14. Money (Pink Floyd Cover)


Jack Savoretti playing to a full Tramshed

Jack Savoretti playing to a full Tramshed

Jack Savoretti playing to a full Tramshed


Wednesday night in Cardiff and all roads led to the Tramshed off Clare Street. Everyone appeared to be walking and driving to see Jack Savoretti the atmosphere was excited anticipation as Earl opened for Jack Savoretti and his band.

Jack Savoretti playing to a full TramshedEarl stepped on stage sat behind her keyboard and picked up electric guitar and entertained with a singer/songwriter set that entertained. Earl from Alaska now based in London has fine vocals and the lyrics certainly shared emotions with the audience if they cared to listen. Those that did were enchanted by the laid back and warm demeanor of Earl. Showcasing her EP recorded in a church and performed Good Witch which is being played on Radio 2 on the B list and noticed by Chris Evans. This is her first UK tour and her name will definitely get more notice and as her style develops, needs more variation in tempo and musical delivery to retain interest; Earl has the musical foundation for being a powerful Singer/songwriter act.

Short break and the laughing and excitement grew in Tramshed and for a change the audience was predominately women. The age range was diverse and once again proving live music is healthy in UK as people come out to a venue on a cold March Cardiff evening.

Jack Savoretti playing to a full TramshedWhat a loss to the British music scene if the broke and disillusioned singer/songwriter had quit four/five years ago. Thankfully the fates had another plan for Jack, as he said an angry farewell to the music business. The songs just came, a viaduct for the anger and frustration the younger Jack was feeling. Like many talented musicians touring the circuit his voice is exceptional, his stage presence amenable and musicianship that makes the best of the lyrics. The writing and personal passion resulted in 2011’s critically-acclaimed Before The Storm; the future was now set to stay with a music career for once the combination of perseverance and talent combined to make sure that Jack Savoretti was now here in Cardiff as part of a sell-out tour.

The stage went dark the atmosphere built-in a venue that knows how to put on a show, on came the band and then to a rousing heartfelt cheer before a note was played or sung Jack Savoretti himself.  The dramatic intro over and straight in to the title track of his current album Written In Scars, the music rolled for another 90 minutes as we were entertained with a stomping, rollickingly good mix of alternative rock folk with variation weaved through the weft and warp of the musical tapestry painted tonight by Jack Savoretti. There were blues riffs and licks and country guitar, southern rock and British rock n’ roll creating an accessible sound that refused to be captured into the cul-de-sac that being linked with a specific genre can become.

Jack Savoretti has a superb band supporting his vocals that change like a vocal chameleon to suit the shape of the lyrics and musical style and accomplished acoustic guitar playing. The band created the deep rhythms, drummer Jesper Lind and John Bird Jnr on various Bass guitars and upright and to the melody is keyboard play Nikolaj Torp Larsen (Danish session musician who currently also tours with The Specials) and a Wurlitzer with a Nord C3 is different from the Hammond combo.  To the left of Jack is guitarist Pedro Vito who adds such depth of tone from his myriad of guitars to add whether a Fender or a Gibson with and without glittery finish.  The band with the layers of tonal colours paint the musical landscape for Jack Savoretti who rules the stage and is the focal point of the audience’s attention. They were delighted as Fight Until The End and Breaking The Rules were sung the atmosphere was getting  hot hot hot. Then the band left the stage after Home and for one track the stage was Jack’s with an acoustic solo of Dylan’s Nobody ‘Cept You. His voice was deep and melodic filling the Tramshed from the edge of the stage up into the rafters. Once again the soundmen had the sound spot-on.  He was not left on his own for long as John Bird joined him for Soldiers Eyes and then the rest of the band picked up the baton and the second half of the show started.  The crowd continued to be pleased and sing along to the numbers they love so much. The whoops of pure joy rang around the venue, the energy of live music is addictive.

Jack has a vocal range that can be compared with many on the circuit, the gravel tones stop the whole proceedings becoming syrupy sweet combined with the lyrics that have a passionate power. As in For The Last Time – “I don’t want to hear what you, I’ve heard it all before every single phrase, Wipe away the tears drowning out my days, Give me back the years that you took away….“.  Knock Knock, brought the set to an end and had the everyone harmonizing with Jack  this gritty gravel infused vocal on a country-style number the venue was rocking.  No the silence didn’t last he and the band were back for three more songs for an encore with Come Shine The Light a closing number that will linger as an earworm for everyone at the sell-out gig tonight. Cardiff says, Thank you Jack Savoretti for crossing the bridge over the Severn and to Tramshed for being such a great venue for live music.

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Oyster 3 – perfect miniature of The Oysterband

Oyster 3 – perfect miniature of The Oysterband

Tuesday night, for Roots Unearthed at St David’s Hall we were all treated to a musical delight. The Oyster 3 are the heart of The Oysterband. The depth of tone achieved coupled with the power of the lyrics make the stripped back Oyster 3 perfect.

Oyster 3 -4574Oyster 3 opening with an instrumental English folk tune which provided the perfect start to get your musical pulses running. The intoxicating mix of fiddle, acoustic guitar and accordion created a real Ceilidh number the deep root of the Oyster music.  Then a traditional song given the Oyster re-arrangement, Molly Bond a delight from 1986 is given new tonal shape with the Oyster 3 ‘Unplugged’ sound. This re-acquaintance with songs we love from the band continued throughout the evening with tales of experiences of touring musicians.  The three founder members of The Oysterband, John Jones, Alan Prosser and Ian Telfer created an evening that was up close, personal and stories the revealed the darker side of East German business after the wall came tumbling down, others made us laugh and sigh. Ian in the main acted in between fiddle and vocal duties as the raconteur, whist John and Alan added their own pithy comments.


Oyster 3 -4591Great audience participation, for The Oxford Girl (1982); this encapsulated the evening’s folk music modern and approachable. The years moved on it was now 1983 with Coal Not Dole, written by Kay Sutcliffe, all about the Kent Coal fields. The emotions were still raw as John sung the lyrics of the poem written by Kay, a wife of a Kentish miner. She wrote the poem during the mid-eighties dispute between  Maggie Thatcher’s Conservative government and the NUM.  Another Oysterband classic hardly felt stripped down with a rousing delivery of Another Quiet Night in England. A little known fact was shared. The Oysterband banked the earnings of tours of East Germany prior to reunification!  You have to go and see this engaging trio to learn the full twists and turns of a tale with not a happy ending and the band buying the get-away car for their ex-manager George!


Oyster 3 -4580The exact meaning of Cornish Hal-an-Tow, is unclear and is a processional tune ushering in summer. In fact the meaning may be from the words jolly rumbalo, it is always a fun tune to get your feet a-tapping. Alan’s solo The Mississippi Summer was another one of the beautiful interpretations that were the hallmark of this evening’s show of folk in the round.  Meet You There, provided a stirring finales to a great evening crammed with stories and songs rooted in the folk tradition with the freedom to fly brightening a winter evening.

With an encore, the 1992 Oysterband number  We Could Leave Right Now, as the song progressed they left the stage and walked off singing as they went their voices fading as the night drew to an end. A fabulous evening, all good things as they say have to come to an end unfortunately.

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CD Review: Babajack LIVE

BabaJack Live Cover banner fbBabajack LIVE
Recorded before audience at The Cube, Malvern 10th May 2015

Release Date 10th October 2015

Babajack incorporates elements of music gathered in from Africa, Blues, Folk, Rock and beyond and then blends and distills with artful precision to create a unique sound that excites the audience as they are swept up into the whirlwind of emotions unfolding through the words and music. This is the album that capturing the very essence of the band, Babajack Live the full band plus the atmospheric cello courtesy of Julia Palmer-Price and the skillful live recording and production from Paul Long you have a live sound captured forever.
The track list is a mix of songs from previous albums, the must have tracks in a Babajack set and some glimpses of future work and the promise of another studio album. Opening with Money’s All Gone, the first sound is Trevor Steger’s harp playing so distinctive and the scene set as the guitar picks up, Becky’s percussion and the audience applaud this definitely a fun ride, this is a song that has a driving rhythm and tells a tale that is essential for this acoustic sound full with its electric force field of energy’ the extended live version gives the band time to explore and develop the melodies and Becky’s vocals ensure that we understand the money is gone!

We hear the intro’s from Becky and now with the djembe beat we have a love song she wrote Falling Hard with the harp once again painting a picture of hope and despair in the pure simplicity of the opening is what makes Babajack special. This is no heart and flowers love song it is about falling hard and the beat of the drums by Tosh Murase underline the drama of the whole track. Sunday Afternoon was perfect for this recording on a late Sunday afternoon and the intro was spellbinding combined with the anticipation of Becky’s vocals were reward as she joined in with the band harmonizing behind her and Trevor’s distorted backing vocals’ the moment captured. Then a new number Back Door, that has an acoustic simplicity and that driving Babajack bluesy folk riff recognisable as one of their songs so much more than sitting at a back door. With Breathe, one of the shorter tracks, the cello makes the music almost stand still its simple beauty the silence was deep it was as if the audience were collectively holding their breath so as not to interfere with the waves the music was weaving. A gentle track where vocal and cello merges and sends a shiver down the spine. Phew! We can breathe again; and the tempo changes with the title track from their last studio album <strongRunning Man full of storytelling tradition through song is unveiled, the listening picks up the fear of the unknown, running but cannot escape; the applause was huge no wonder what a rendition. This is followed by a mainstay of their set list Gallows Pole, from English Folk, over to the USA and Leadbelly then back as a rock anthem and now this, what is becoming an iconic version. The whole band had fun playing this Adam Bertenshaw as on all the tracks provides a bass line that allows the music to develop from and have a safe haven to return to so whatever path they choose the shape and form stays. Finishing the album with Skin & Bone the audience joined in with percussive clapping and Tosh’s drumming is immense, cello full of groaning emotion and then Becky and Trevor the heartstone of the band creating a song that lingers long after the last note dies away and the applause stops.
Babajack LIVE, works superbly as an album there is the tension and even hints of vulnerability of exposing a live performance to the recording process; the result is an emotionally drenched performance of the eleven tracks. The album could be reviewed in a sentence – Babajack LIVE has frozen the essence of Babajack, the energy and tension of a live performance frozen in time we can all enjoy this golden album again and again and get as much pleasure as the audience did.

Bluesdoodles gives this CD TEN pawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN ….

Babajack – Babajack LIVE – Independent


Oysterband – Live @The Garage, Swansea

Oysterband - The Garage - March 2015 -  5 - _0012lFriday night eve of the Spring Solstice and solar eclipse happened but the promise of quality live music from the Oysterband beckoned with their own folk rock musical menu.

The first gig of the tour since John’s operation, another cancer survivor, and tonight every fan celebrated the Oysterband’s front man’s return to the stage in fine voice.
The atmosphere was full of expectation in a busy venue tonight and the energy  went up to sparking static electric as  the members of the band strode through the audience;  with the fans forming a guard of honour as the band walked towards the small stage soon they were ready instruments picked up the set was about to begin.
Oysterband - The Garage - March 2015 -  5 - _0129lOpening a strong set of Oysterband classics and from current album Diamonds On The Water; everyone was delighted to hear the opening classic Native Son,  quickly followed  by another favourite By Northern Lights again reflecting the other natural phenomenon that Wales had recently experienced the Aurora as far South as the Brecon Beacons.  The whole place was now in high spirits singing and dancing in harmony with a band that entertains but above all wants you to have fun, engaging with the music and soaking up and understanding the poetic and meaningful lyrics.

Oysterband - The Garage - March 2015 -  5 - _0146lThe charisma from all the musicians oozed off the stage and this energy and connection with each other and the audience focused through the power of John Jones upfront who was enjoying every moment of being back on stage delivering the music he loves. The title track of their current album, Diamonds on the Water was beautiful with the harmonized vocals; the whole sound they produce is a melding and meshing of tonal layers, with Adrian Oxaal on cello adding a depth of melancholy and fill in the mid-range of tone. The whole boisterous crowd were immersed in the sound and sang along to all the lyrics and joined in creating a great atmosphere in this cozy venue in Uplands, Swansea.

Oysterband - The Garage - March 2015 -  5 - _0031lThere was a change of tempo as we were treated to a trio of Irish Folk instrumentals with the stylish bow of Ian Telfer, who makes the four strings of the fiddle resonate across the venue, the irony of a Scotsman playing Irish music in Wales was appreciated by Ian and the audience. With John back on the vocals we heard a song they wrote in celebration of 200th anniversary  of Thomas Paine so relevant for this pre-election period with All That Way For This featuring Dil out front with his glittery green snare and audience participation. The pace picked up with Here Comes The Flood as we were treated to an array of favourites including Mississippi Summer a Si Khan number with Alan Prosser playing solo. The crowd just wanted more and more music and the Oysterband kept delivering, their folk rock world music with all its musical twists and turns in which every track tells a story that you just want to have the plot unfolded in front of you.  Steal Away from Diamonds On The Water album is rarely played live but tonight we fell in love with a version that hit the rafters. With the fading chords of Santiago it was time for the gig to end, normally bands leave and return but the layout of the stage makes this impossible so they stayed and we heard a rousing rendition of Meet You There before they picked up their instruments and joined the crowds to sing the last number and then march through the appreciative clapping and cheering audience out of the venue to the back stage area.

This was a gem of a gig and The Garage was appreciative that musicians of such caliber had bout their dynamic sound to Swansea on a Friday night.

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