Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The Pierces

The Pierces
The Sage
The Pierces are back!

Following on from the success of their popular 2011 album - You and I - they have just released Creation.

A rare UK tour to support the new album brought them to The Sage tonight, and to the intimate setting of Hall 2 to boot. It was packed out.
Songs from the two aforementioned albums dominated the setlist and very powerful they were too.
Head for the official website for the rest of the UK tour dates and for all of the latest Pierces news.

Mike Zito And The Wheel: Songs From The Road

Mike Zito and The Wheel
Songs From the Road

Ruf's popular Songs From the Road series continues with a double disc release from Mike Zito. Mike's work has been featured here before (here, here and here if you'd like to catch up).

The series typically offers a double dose of live music, with one CD and a DVD covering the same performance (usually with a couple of changes in the respective track lists, for the sake of variety).

''This DVD and live album were recorded on January 10th, 2014, at Dorsey Dee at The Woodlands, TX, to a sold-out crowd of crazy Texans'' says Mike. ''The audience was on fire from the first note. The band played with such energy and passion. I was overwhelmed many times throughout this performance by the sheer energy of love that poured out of every soul in that building. It was a truly magical night, one I will never forget.''


Mike Zito: guitar and lead vocals
Jimmy Carpenter: sax and vocals
Scot Sutherland: bass and vocals
Lewis Stephens: piano and organ
Rob Lee: drums and percussion

Mike is keen to point to the teamwork aspect of the band. ''With the guys in The Wheel, we're all on the same page. We're not interested in solos, we want to pay together.'' True enough, the band are very tight unit and work very well together. It's good to play both versions of the concert, as the audio experience, followed by the visual, brings out different aspects of the performance. The DVD is nicely shot, with the camerawork bringing home just how intimate the venue was. Watching the disc is like taking the best seat in the house.

Track-wise, this is a showcase of Mike's best songs from the albums mentioned above, plus a a couple of covers.

Track List


Don't Break a Leg
Little Red Corvette
Rainbow Bridge
Pearl River
Hell on Me
C'mon Baby
Judgment Day
Dirty Blonde
Subtraction Blues
Gone to Texas


Don't Break a Leg
I Never Knew a Hurricane
Hell on Me
Pearl River
Dirty Blonde
One Step at a Time
Subtraction Blues
Judgment Day
Gone to Texas
Let Your Light Shine on Me
Natural Born Lover
Texas Flyer

The DVD of the concert lasts just over one hour and 20 minutes. There's some bonus material in the form of fan interviews and three additional videos of Mike Zito in action.

It's a very entertaining package. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the music.

Mike is currently touring the UK. Head for his website for further details.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

20 Ruf Years

20 Years Anniversary
Ruf Records
Founded by Thomas Ruf in 2004 with the aim of giving legendary Chicago bandleader Luther Allison a platform to release some of the best albums of his career, Ruf Records has gone from strength to strength over the course of two action-packed decades.

This excellent two-CD set showcases the extraordinary array of talent on their books. Most of the featured artists have been reviewed here at Marsh Towers (judicious use of the search box will be of help there).

The first CD presents some of the finest cuts from Ruf's Girls With Guitars and CD2 focuses on the Guys With Guitars. Despite the nostalgia-fest, Ruf keeps one eye on the future, with a formerly unreleased song by their latest signing, Eliana Cargnelutti.

There's no point in trying to pick out highlights from this bumper collection; they are all highlights! It's an ideal set to enable listeners to ''try before they buy'' from the extensive Ruf catalogue. Simply slip a CD into your player then sit back and relax.

Track List

CD 1: Girls With Guitars

1.       Fish, Taylor, Wilde: Bitch – 03:38
2.       Dana Fuchs: Bliss Avenue – 02:58
3.       Joanne Shaw Taylor: Can’t Keep Living Like This – 05:12
4.       Samantha Fish: Down In The Swamp – 04:13
5.       Dani Wilde: Shine – 04:44
6.       Meena: Try Me – 04:59
7.       Ana Popovic: Love Fever – 04:27
8.       Eliana Cargnelutti: Stranded in Memphis – 03:29
9.       Joanna Connor: Never Been Rocked Enough – 03:26
10.     Erja Lyytinen: Skinny Girl – 03:05
11.     Sue Foley: Show Me – 03:31
12.     Candye Kane and Laura Chavez: Toughest Girl Alive – 02:40
13.     Foley, Coleman, Potvin: In The Basement – 03:26

CD 2: Guys With Guitars 

1.        Thorbjørn Risager: If You Wanna Leave – 04:12
2.        Royal Southern Brotherhood : Rock And Roll – 04:56
3.        Walter Trout: Livin’ Every Day – 04:41
4.        Oli Brown: Speechless – 04:27
5.        Laurence Jones: Temptation –04:15
6.        Mike Zito: Voices In Dallas – 04:3
7.        Bart Walker: Waitin On Daylight – 04:33
8.        Spin Doctors: Some Other Man Instead – 04:33
9.        Lister, Lyytinen, Parker: Blues Caravan – 02:43
10.      Jeff Healey: I’m Torn Down – 05:03
11.      Cyril Neville: Swamp Funk – 04:3
12.      Devon Allman: Homesick – 03:32
13.      K Simmonds and Savoy Brown: Nuthin‘ Like The Blues – 04:55
14.      Albert Castiglia: Bad Avenue – 07:00
15.      Luther Allison: You Can’t Always Get What You Want – 04:38

Incidentally, we will have reviews on new albums by Mike Zito, Devon Allman, Robbie Hill, Keith Thompson and Erja Lyytinen over the course of the next couple of week - so stay tuned.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Jennifer Crook: Carnforth Station

Carnforth Station
Jennifer Crook
Earlier this year, we reported on the successful pledge music campaign that was set up to fund Jennifer Crook's new album. Now there is more good news; today sees the release of Carnforth Station. It's been over three years since Jennifer's last album, Merry-Go-Round, was released (we reviewed it here), so a sequel was definitely due.

Carnforth Station offers 11 brand new songs, all written by Jennifer.

Track List

Long Drive Back Home From Love
Carnforth Station
I've Forgotten Everything
Black Fly
The Net
One More Day
Angel in Disguise
Only the River
For You

The range of instruments allows plenty of scope for a fresh range of sounds, with the harp and accordion in particular standing out and giving the songs significant extra dimensions.


Jennifer Crook: Lead singing, harp, acoustic guitar, banjo
Beth Porter: Cello, fiddle, harmony singing
Mike Cosgrave: Acoustic guitar, accordion, harmony singing

Additional Personnel

Kevin Brown: Weissenborn, lap steel, electric guitar
Miranda Sykes: Double bass, harmony singing

Readers may already be familiar with the real Carnforth Station and its significance in the story of Brief Encounter, with its themes of broken love and journeys (of more than one type). Similar themes inform the songs of this new album, from the very start, with Long Drive Back Home From Love. It's a very strong opener, detailing the dual-level journey (geographical and emotional) away from an unsuccessful relationship.

The title track continues the theme, with its ''graveyard of trains'' and ''carriages carrying high expectations'' which are ''left out to rot in the rain.'' This is all very potent material and it will undoubtedly strike an emotional chord with the vast majority of listeners.

There are several divergences from the central themes along the way, including the medieval-like Apples and the tempo-lifting, Gospel-tinged I've Forgotten Everything, which could well provoke an audience sing-a-long when played live, evoking, as it does, When the Saints Go Marching In.

Black Fly is one of the album's highlights, offering a slice of darker folk with a mystical slant featuring a wise old man and a choice of paths to take. It's not so easy to banish fear in the darkness.

The album comes full circle with For You. This closing song returns to the theme of broken relationships but sees the subject concluding her journey - having emerged a much stronger person - with a sugar-coated poisoned message to her former partner, the sort of person who was always right, left to ''act like you don't care.''

Carnforth Station is, without any shadow of doubt, Jennifer's finest work to date. The new songs are all set to be fully unleashed during an imminent tour.

Head for Jennifer's official website for further details on Carnforth Station and her 2014 tour dates.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

London Chess Classic 2014

The schedule for the 6th London Chess Classic is now available and it can be found here.

We will post more on this as we approach December.

Thursday, 11 September 2014


Get The Batsford Book of Chess: From Beginner to Winner with 20% (if ordered directly from the publisher)!


Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Roland Gift

Roland Gift
The Sage, Gateshead
The second Sage gig of the weekend, following hard on the heels of Lisa Stansfield, was a rare appearance by Roland Gift, ''The Voice of Fine Young Cannibals''.

This was a great coup by The Sage as Roland played just four venues on this mini-tour (the others being in Birmingham, Hull and London) as he limbers up for the release of a new album, Return to Vegas.

Hall 2 of The Sage provided a very intimate setting for this fabulous show. It's been a very long time since Fine Young Cannibals enjoyed their golden years and Roland has performed very sporadically since then. With a new six-piece group (guitar, bass guitar, drums, keyboards and two backing singers), all of whom were clearly enjoying the evening just as much as we were, Roland delivered a masterclass performance.
From the raw emotion of What Do You Mean, through the finest cuts from the Fine Young Cannibals' albums up the finale of Blue, Roland projected a magnetic stage presence and a demonstration of raw emotional that threatened to blow the lid off Hall 2.

It was a serious, intense set punctuated by just the occasional burst of humour. Early on, he asked ''Does anybody like punk rock? Do you love punk rock...? Well, here's some reggae'' before launching into a storming Ever Fallen in Love.

The audience was in a very responsive mood throughout the gig and the biggest cheer of the night was reserved - predictably - for Suspicious Minds. Elsewhere, he still hit the high notes in She Drive Me Crazy, which had the audience singing along from the start.

The encore started with The Prisoner, a recent song based on themes explored by the famous TV series of the same name, with key line ''I am not a number; I'm a free man!'' belted out very convincingly.

Set List

What Do You Mean
Ever Fallen in Love
Girl Like You
Johnny Come Home
It’s Only Money
Good Thing
Suspicious Minds
Around the World
She’s Not You Girlfriend
She Drives Me Crazy
Broken Heart
I’m Not The Man I Used To Be


The Prisoner

This was undoubtedly one of the best gigs of the year. Here's hoping the new album appears sooner rather than later and that a full tour will follow, with the same band.

Here are a few more photos with which to conclude.