November is ridiculously packed with gigs, it’s a veritable flood of bands & artists of all genres, places of origin, longevity and stature. Of course with this volume of shows the inevitable gig clashes occur (and that’s without factoring in metal, punk, prog and all the rest). There’s something for everyone and an impossible task to make any recommendations. An equally impossible task to try and write up each act in detail too, as you’d spend more time reading this than going to gigs. So brief info and good luck planning your month out. See you down the front.
The Golden Lion has a fine booking policy and month after month manages to get brilliantly talented acts on its stage at bargain prices and in an excessively convivial atmosphere. It’s impossible to have a poor night at the place and the first pick for this month is Hannah Aldridge – purveyor of a pleasing blend of muscular country rock and americana and touring her latest release Gold Rush. This is a full band show and Jetbone (rambunctious Swedish rock / soul hybrid) will be providing support so it’s gonna get raucous.
TTB are in town to play “Mancunian Americana” (according to Mark Riley) and will no doubt be featuring plenty from their new waxing Sails. Expect some delightful harmonies and some dark lyrics – the LP was recorded after the band had all their gear ripped off and the recording process saw the band splinter with founder members leaving. So expect intensity too…
This is an intriguing prospect: SoD, aka Canuck Benjamin Darvill, formerly of the Crash Test Dummies, is bringing imaginary songs for cop shows to the Louie. He’s already had his gristly, gnarly blues tunes placed with some real cop shows (Preacher, Breaking Bad, and Bloodline) and with around 800 shows to his name and 8 LPs in to his recording career you can expect a great night.
You’re right, the mighty Mayall should need no introduction to any fan of the blues or indeed anyone with a passing interest in the evolution of rock music and, in particular, the development of the UK guitar hero. An incredible fifty years as a working musician and also a sponsor and discoverer of great talent, he’s always surrounded himself with great musicians and regularly cuts it up on stage. Without getting too morbid, the reaper has his Filofax open to musicians lately so don’t miss this chance to see a genuinely seminal musician in his natural habitat.
No less than T Bone Burnett has this to say about the Americans “Genius twenty-first century musicians that are reinventing American heritage music for this century. And it sounds even better this century”. The band have been playing for quite some time and have something of a storied background (read more here) and if the critical acclaim converts to commercial success this could be one of those gigs to boast about when they’re massive.
Harrow Fair is a collaboration between Miranda Mulholland (Great Lake Swimmers, Belle Starr) and Andrew Penner (Sunparlour Players), who have recently completed their debut LP Call to Arms. That recording is a nice mix up of soft, gentle and mellow alongside primal, raucous and rowdy roots music – pushing genre boundaries to welcome effect. This gig is the one if you want something a little less obvious.
John Fairhurst never disappoints on stage whether solo or in a band setting, incendiary guitar playing (his acoustic work is as aggressive and dynamic as his electric) and his molasses dark voice lends itself to his own autobiographical(ish) tunes and choice covers. Find out more here and find out why this is a pretty essential gig here.
It really is a month for blues guitar with McBride back in town with his fiery yet nuanced blues rock – think classic blues rock from the late sixties / early seventies. Naturally given his birthplace the critics make lazy comparisons with Rory Gallagher and Gary Moore, but over several recordings and incessant touring McBride has found his own sound.
Er, it really is a month for blues guitar with JST back in town too… Taylor has been making a lot of waves since her debut some years back and it’s great to see her having graduated from the Tunnels all the way up to the Colston Hall. Her last recording Wild really is a step change for her (although the previous recordings weren’t too shabby mind) she’s really finding her voice – literally with a road hardened husky rasp and figuratively with her songs. If she can keep the quality going don’t be surprised when she’s selling out the Albert Hall and giving Joe Bonamassa a run for his money.
Our first gig clash of the month and a simple binary choice. Cardboard Fox (me neither) are gonna fill St. Georges with a particularly English take on bluegrass – four part harmonies and a pop sensibility leavened with some folk roots (see debut LP Out of Mind). If you want a hoedown this month, this is the gig for you – gig clash settled.
Vying with Cardboard Fox for the most whimsical and least obvious band name. CBC play greasy blues rock where Zep meet Skynyrd but rather than hailing from the South they’re from the Emerald Isle. The three piece have been together a while and have been making inroads here in the UK – well received sets at Hard Rock Hell Blues festival and a smattering of their own dates. If you want some crunch this month, this is the gig for you – gig clash settled.
Sari Schorr is a force of nature possessing a phenomenal voice and with fabulous song writing chops and meanwhile her band the Engine Room – led by the indomitable Innes Sibun – are a fierce yet funky outfit. She’s been out supporting Walter Trout, and last time she was in town in her own right played an absolute blinder at the Tunnels. The Louie will struggle to contain this band and if you like you’re blues laced with rawk, this is the gig for you this month.
MM has been making a lot of waves over the pond – major critical acclaim and plenty of commercial success built from her career as a songwriter and is now striking out on her own. The Texan born singer is on her first UK tour off the back of her latest album Hero. Synchronous support comes from Ryan Hurd a dude who has also had a plethora of songs successfully recorded by some major country acts but has now taken the decision to step on to the stage and sing his own stuff. So a good value night for those who like their country a little more mainstream.
Much like Mr Mayall, Van Morrison needs no introduction and if you’ve not scored a ticket for this show, you’re too late as it’s sold out (but if you missed out, take advantage of our second gig clash, you have two alternatives for this particular clash). He’s recently released his 37th LP, Roll with the Punches, a blues record and to be frank, who know what the gig will bring? He’s mercurial onstage, leaving a trail of reviews that equally praise him and condemn for either not playing any of the hits or playing the hits or for not being the specific Van each particular critic wants to see onstage. But sod it, he’s there to serve his muse and that’s that. Like Mayall a giant of music and a massive influence on so many.
Ostensibly a blues player Fish has taken a left turn with her latest LP Chills & Fever, recorded with Detroit punk blues band The Detroit Cobras it’s a rowdy horn driven rhythm and blues outing featuring covers and originals. Yet another artist with great cross over potential – we really are spoiled for choice this month. If you want to see an artist taking a stylistic sidestep to great affect this is your show, gig clash settled.
William the Conqueror have begun to get noticed by the national press – not just the music press but the mainstream outlets too – and that’s a fine thing because their grungy take on americana is a welcome breath of aggressive fresh air. Supports slots with, amongst others, Danny and the Champions of the World along with their own dates mean their fighting fit. New tune Tend to the Thorns heralds a soon-come debut album so if you want to see a local(ish) band on the cusp of a critical breakthrough this is the night for you, gig clash settled.
Waffles, Triangles & Jesus has to be the most intriguing and entertaining LP title in this month’s picks (no surprise as its author Jim White featured in a documentary back in ’04 called Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus). His work has very much been rooted in his own life, introspective and self-examining at times and the new release is a bit of a swerve (notably with the treated vocals). He’s a storyteller who sets his stories to music so this will be a night to recharge if you’ve spent time at the noisier gigs.
This lady has quite the bio – it’s not often an act that’s graced the stages of Broadway turns up in the ‘keller. But why not? James has made a career out of musicals and covers but has now recorded and released her first album of originals – Reckless Abandon – a recording steeped in soul, R&B and blues, so expect plenty from that along with some choice covers. This is a gig clash so this is the show if you want to witness a Broadway sized talent burning down the stage in an intimate venue. With very sticky floors.
Released 35 records? Check. Published five books? Check. Had songs covered by Johnny Cash, Doug Sahm, Nanci Griffith, K.D. Lang, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Ian Tyson, Iris Dement, Joe Ely, and more? Check. Written a folk opera featuring 52 original songs? Check. Even pitched against some of the other acts Mr Russell has done an awful lot of stuff, and he’s bringing much of that stuff to the Thekla for another gig clash. So pick this gig if you want folk steeped with roots music and a genuine talent for singing stories.
Easy one to recommend – absolutely cracking bluegrass infused folk (or folk marbled with bluegrass?) from a group of talented and passionate musicians. This is the gig to remind you that the roots of a lot of modern popular music is steeped in traditional timeless folk music reimagined and reinterpreted by second and third generation immigrants far from home – and music that still sounds as fresh and exhilarating as the latest grime metal electroclash mashup.
Canadian J W Jones is an old school showman (find out more about his influences here), his gigs are full of cracking songs and some sublime showmanship – many of the traditional axe hero tropes turned on their head and he has a habit of jumping in to the crowd for the odd solo or two (check out the details from his last show here). Jones plays old school but brings a fresh take and it’s difficult not to spend a night grinning like a buffoon in his company. As this is our final gig clash pick this one if you want a night of classy playing.
OK, so Holy Moly & the Crackers is arguably as daft a name as Crow Black Chicken and Cardboard Fox but it’s memorable and makes you smile. They’re branded as gypsy folk rock but to be fair the racket they make has elements of ABC spliced through it (all music is folk music just like it’s pop music really eh?). It’s at the Lion, it’s a Saturday night so pick this one if you want to wake up Sunday afternoon knackered, with a mouth like the bottom of a budgie’s cage and a missing shoe.
If you missed out on Van’s show earlier in the month then there’s the opportunity to catch fellow traveller Brian Kennedy in the intimate setting of the Folk House. Kennedy has a hell of a back story, in fact a unique story – growing up Belfast, busking in London at 18 to feed himself, discovery by Simon Fuller and being mentored by Van (and the novels, and the telly and Riverdance) along with chart busting albums. So a rather special night to be sure – Essentials is his latest record, reinterpretations of older material so expect a career spanning set.
Mark Lanegan certainly deserves a place in the ABC picks, much of his work is steeped in americana and the blues albeit filtered through some pitch black lyrical concerns and featuring plenty of fuzzed out psychedelia and electronica (the latter especially prevalent on the latest release Gargoyle). His last Bristol show was intense but rewarding and he will no doubt impress again, especially given the strength of the new material – some of his finest work to date.
If you have any money and energy left and still have permission to rock then what better way to finish a monster month off than in the company of Ian Felice. He’s released his debut solo offering In The Kingdom of Dreams this year (produced by brother Simone and featuring the original line of the Brothers). It’s a reflective piece of work focussing on his formative years and the lyrics that didn’t lend themselves to songs are available as an accompanying book of poetry – Hotel Swampland – so a low key end to a busy month.
After this month’s deluge of gigs December is relatively quiet and mostly blue(s), but the New Year is already shaping up with some great looking gigs. As always the advice is to check out the details, match ‘em to both calendar and budget then book early to avoid disappointment.
Songhoy Blues, Anson: Friday, 01 Dec
Husky Tones, Old Stillage: Saturday, 02 Dec
Chantel McGregor, Tunnels: Sunday, 10 Dec
Ainsley Lister, Tunnels: Tuesday, 12 Dec
Terry & Gerry, Thunderbolt: Friday, 02 Feb
The Mavericks, Colston Hall: Friday, 02 Feb
Jess & the Bandits, Tunnels: Wednesday, 14 Feb
Calexico, Trinity: Wednesday, 28 Mar
The White Buffalo, Academy: Sunday, 08 Apr
Ian Siegel, Tunnels: Monday, 16 Apr
All pix John Morgan