75 Essential Albums – Day #19 Counting Crows

Here goes with day 19 of my countdown of 75 Albums that in my opinion should have a place in everyones music collection.  They are not in any particular order though the top 10 will be my personal take on the top 10 albums ever released.  You might be surprised at some of my picks and some of my omissions.  Feel free to chime in with your comments and let me know if you love (or hate my choices).

Counting Crows – August and Everything After

I am feeling a little self indulgent today (hey its my blog) so todays album choice is a masterpiece by the Wonderful Counting Crows.   I am off to see them tomorrow so it seems appropriate to include one of their albums today :)

August and Everything After was Counting Crows debut album and it has sold well over 8 Million copies.  lead singer Adam Duritz cites Van Morrison as a major influence and this can be heard throughout.   The album fuses lyrically rich ballads with strong hooks and memorable melodies, making for a solid collection of songs which assured that this debut album would be the band’s most successful ever.

With tracks like ‘Round Here’, ‘Omaha’, ‘Mr Jones’, ‘Anna Begins’, ‘Rain King’, and ‘Time and Time Again’,  August and Everything After yields highlight after highlight.   “Mr. Jones” is, arguably the most popular song by the band through their career, the dynamic and rich lyrics about trying to make it in the music business was somewhat prophetic as Duritz finishes the song with the line “Mr Jones and me, we’re gonna be big stars.   Becoming big stars was a double edged sword for Duritz as he had a breakdown and battles with depression as a result.  This probably accounts for the bands relatively modest output of just 6 albums of original material in over 20 years.

“Omaha” follows with some bright accordion by keyboardist Charlie Gillingham highlighting this relatively upbeat and bouncy folk song. “Anna Begins” builds into a very pleasant and melodic listen with stream-of-consciousness lyrics which are at once intense yet relaxed and a great harmonised counter-melody towards the end. “Time and Time Again” is a slow ballad and showcases the Hammond organ by Gillingham and bouncy bass by Matt Malley.

The most upbeat song on the album is “Rain King”, a song about optimism and possibilities. It contains great blend of guitars by Bryson and mandolin by  David Immerglück.   The moody “Sullivan Street” with its slowly strummed, twangy guitar blended with some great topical piano is great ode to lost love.

From beginning to end this is a great collection of songs which holds together beautifully as a piece.

That Friday Feeling – Mrs Potters Lullaby

That Friday feeling is a place to share something with the world.  It could be a song, a poem, a painting or a photograph, anything at all.  There is but one rule.  Whatever it is must touch you on an emotional level.

Either drop me a note with a link and I will post here or leave a comment with a ping back to your own blog.  Join in and share that Friday feeling :)

This week’s tune is Mrs Potters Lullaby by the Brilliant Counting Crows.  This time tomorrow I will be on my way to Birmingham to see them for the first night of their UK tour.  Yahoo!  This fulfils a long held ambition as they are a band I have wanted to see for many years :)  I will be seeing them again next week too :)



75 Essential Albums – Day #18 – Ferocious Dog

Here goes with day 18 of my countdown of 75 Albums that in my opinion should have a place in everyones music collection.  They are not in any particular order though the top 10 will be my personal take on the top 10 albums ever released.  You might be surprised at some of my picks and some of my omissions.  Feel free to chime in with your comments and let me know if you love (or hate my choices).

Ferocious Dog – Ferocious Dog

Blimey, day 18 already and up to now all of my picks have been classic albums so it is high time that I picked  a much more recent album.  This one is a stunner.

Ferocious Dog are a Nottinghamshire based six-piece Alt-Folk band produce a high energy sound performing their own songs and adding a very different slant to some more traditional songs.  219304_orig

The as yet unsigned band released their eponymous debut album in late 2013 and make no  mistake, this album is the real deal!

From Ellis Waring’s’ gentle solo banjo intro to the opening track “The Glass” to the frenetic cacophony of sound that is the closing track “Paddy on The Railway” this album instantly grabs you and keeps you returning for more.

The album is a very strong collection of songs mostly co-written by father and son team guitarist & vocalist Ken Bonsall and fiddler Dan Booth. It is a collection of stories.  Stories of love & loss, joy & pain, rebellion & powerlessness, inequality & class.  It is personal, dedicated as it is to Ken’s son, Lee Bonsall, who died in tragic circumstances in March 2012, a victim of the war in Afghanistan and the MOD’s continued failure to properly support members of our armed services who are suffering from post combat stress.

The musicianship  is top class and draws on a wide range of styles from the Reggae inspired baselines on ‘Freeborn John’ to the Gypsy fiddle on ‘Pocket of Madness’.  In my opinion every track on the album stands up to close scrutiny and my personal favourites seem to change every time I listen.   The rhythm section, father and son team Dave & Brad Drury, are the glue that holds everything together.  The drive is provided by a very capable engine room with Dan Booth on fiddle and Kyle Peters on guitar.  The intricacy and texture is added by Ellis Waring on mandolin, banjo & guitar.  Ken Bonsall adds the vocal and a8586101_origcoustic guitar to the mix.  Whilst Ken’s slightly rasping vocals bring an obvious focus every  member of the band gets an opportunity to showcase their talent at some point on the album.  Whilst I find it hard to pick a favourite track ‘Criminal Justice’ and ‘Hellhounds’ are firm favourites at live shows and both translate very well to disc.  The band are often compared to the Levellers and there is an undoubted Levellers influence in many of the songs.  It is probably fair to say that Ferocious dog operate in a similar musical space to bands like the Levellers , New Model Army. Indeed they have been described as “Levellers meets Billy Bragg meets The Pogues, I can see why but that they have their own sound and are their own men.   The album was very capably produced by Gavin Monaghan & Rob Huskinson.

I highly recommend this album, it can be bought direct from the bands website at it is a steal at only £10.  Whilst you are there buy a copy of the recorded live acoustic disc which can be had for a mere £5.  It gives an alternate take on most of the songs from the album and does that very nicely.  I must confess though that in my opinion it is worth the £5 just to hear ‘Slow Motion Suicide’ an absolutely brilliant song.


The Blind Fever Band – Hillbilly Blues

The Blind Fever Band were formed in Mansfield in 2011 by Steve Townsend and Kev Hubbell.  The guys come from different musical backgrounds and draw their influences from right across the musical spectrum.  They cite blues, folk, country, punk, rock and cider as amongst their influences.
As time has gone on the band has expanded with Dom Basheck and laterally both Dave and Brad Drury joining to form a formidable rhythm section.  As might be imagined from a band that utilise banjo’s washboards, snare drums and just about anything else they can bring to hand their sound is a heady mix of blues, skiffle, bluegrass and old time country blues.
Those who have seen the band play live will know that they play a high energy show which is full of toe tapping fun, irreverent lyrics and hillbilly hobo attitude.  I saw the band play at Bearded Theory Festival earlier in the year and loved everything about them.  What struck me most about them was the sheer joy they exhibited at playing together.  They were having great fun onstage and as a result the audience was having great fun too.  There is a real chemistry within the band and as a result I was delighted when I was sent a copy of their debut EP to review.
I expect that by the description I have given above and by the EP’s title you will by now have a good idea of what the EP contains.  This is a collection of six songs played mostly in a hillbilly bluegrass and blues style.  The musicianship is very tight and energetic, the banjo drives the songs.  The opening track ‘Telephone’ is an old style blues played with a blues shuffle and fast fingerpicking banjo.  It sounds familiar and may be a traditional blues but I was unable to positively identify it.
The second track ‘bed bug blues’ is a traditional blues variously covered by Leadbelly, Big Bill Broonzey and The Mannish Boys under the title ‘bricks in my pillow’.  It is a foot stomping fun blues driven along by by banjo and percussion.  Track 3 ‘Come on down’ is more usually known as “I aint gonna worry’ and is another traditional blues covered by a range of artists check out a great version by Rasta Bluesman Corey Harris.  The blues harp underlying the vocal on this track is superb and is the heart of this tune.
A really joyful energetic cover of the Old Crow Medicine Shows Cocaine habit is really great.  you can feel the fun the guys had pulling this together, listen out for the whoops and hollers in the background.  If this doesn’t have you tapping your feet and singing along you should check your pulse because you are probably dead!
Next up is a song that everyone knows, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Bands ‘Urban Spaceman’.  The lyrics of this song are great fun and the Blind Fever Band really manage to convey that feeling.  I love the whoops and hollers on the song, you can hear the laughter in the voices.  I would be willing to bet that recording this song took more than a few takes as everyone melted down in laughter as they were recording.  I will probably be slaughtered for this but I like this version more than the original.
The EP closes out with a Ricky Skaggs Bluegrass number, Black Eyed Suzy.  Again the sense of fun comes across.  The duelling between guitar and banjo underpins this one and the three part harmonies are a lot of fun.
This EP is an excellent showcase for a band who spread joy like confetti, they are fun, energetic, toe tapping, foot stomping fun.  Don’t be mislead though, the fun is just a topping for great musicianship. I think the addition of the new band members will add impetus to an already strong lineup.  I look forward eagerly to hearing more from the Blind Fever Band.
Taken at dawn on Tuesday 28th October 2014

Green and Grey

It seems barely credible that just yesterday I rose at 5.30 Am and made my way the few miles to Corfe Castle.  I climbed the hill next to the National Trust Monument wearing just a thin T-shirt and set up my camera ready to catch the sun rising.

What a difference a day makes.   As I woke this morning I heard the low rumble of thunder in the distance.  The sound was clear but but almost inaudible above the sound of the rain beating against my bedroom window.   I stretched, revelling in the luxury of having a king size bed to myself.  I closed my eyes hoping to doze off for a few minutes before rising to shower and then to brave the weather to walk the dogs.  It wasn’t to be.  As always my mind starts to work as soon as my eyes are open, no matter the time of day or night.

I rise and peek through the bedroom curtains towards the heathland that is just two minutes from my doorstep and offers a lovely dog walking environment.  I was greeted by a slate grey sky, uniform with dark foreboding a bleak and forbidding scene.  I sighed inwardly, it matters not how bleak the day, whether you try to live your life by different laws, nothing changes very much, if you own dogs they must be walked.  I deference to the weather I decide that the shower can wait until I return, no doubt cold and wet.

As I leave home a few minutes later there is no sign that the rain will abate.  The wind is howling too, even in full waterproofs I feel the cold trickle of rain down the back of my neck.  I raise my chin, staring into the gloom for I have long since learned to welcome whatever the day will bring.  It matters not whether I object to the rain, the rain doesn’t mind and will keep falling regardless.  As I reach the heath I earn a short respite from the weather as I descend into a small green valley, sheltered by trees.  The leaves look sad now, the lovely browns golds, yellows and reds of yesterdays sunshine now just look a dull and flaccid dark brown as they hang sodden.  As I rise out of the valley I look towards the beautiful Purbeck hills in the distance.  They are shrouded in mist and rain today, a uniform grey, none of the brilliant greens from yesterday can be seen, no chance today of spotting the smoke from the steam trains of the Purbeck railway. Never mind, there will be other trains on other days.

As I crest the hill I see Justin Sullivan approaching me with his dog.  He smiles as he hums a song quietly to himself.  He smiles and mumbles “you need to be brave to go running through that which beckons to us all on a day like this”.  As he walks away, still humming’ I think ‘not for one second did you look behind as you were walking away’.  I turn back into the face of the weather smiling as I remember how lucky I am to live amongst these valleys of green and grey.

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