Seven weeks into 2012 and I find I have only written about listening to musicians who'd qualify for a bus pass. Rest assured, my ears are still open to new stuff. Two of this year's releases I'm listening to a lot are:
- Portico Quartet's third album, inventively titled Portico Quartet. It's a really interesting development of their distinctive Hang-heavy sound, less obviously jazzy than before, with more electronics and loops.
- Beth Jeans Houghton & The Hooves Of Destiny's Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose - which is definitely one of those discs you don't want to have to ask for at the counter. Beneath the arch and obviously quirky lurks an inspired writer and performer with a strong sense of melody. I saw her a couple of years ago in Brighton, second on the bill to Stornoway, and thought she definitely had something. The album's been a relatively long time coming, but it feels strong and assured. She's getting a fair amount of publicity now, which I hope will prove positive, centring on her relationship with a Red Hot Chili Pepper...
On the live front, I've seen both young and old: another strong set from Ahab at the Latest Bar (now refusing to play 'Wagon Wheel' because 'it's not one of our songs' - a bit precious, lads. Fair enough if you're fed up and want a change...); Michael Chapman supported by Mark Wynn; and the Coal Porters.
Michael Chapman is a bona fide legend: a glorious guitar stylist with a distinctive voice and song-writing approach, seventy now but going just as strongly as ever. He played at the West Hill Hall in Brighton, which is a bizarre setting: a community hall usually used for toddler groups and Woodcraft Folk meetings - I was one of a bunch of friends who hired it for Millennium Night and, as you'd imagine, contrived to party like it was 1999... until long after it wasn't.
Anyway, it closed a personal circle nicely because I have a poster on my wall advertising Michael's appearance at the 1970 Clitheroe Pop Festival - which is the only one of those events which I didn't attend, so very satisfying to catch up with him just 42 years on. And if you haven't heard of Clitheroe or its festivals have a look at this site here to which I fed some information and pictures.
Mark Wynn, who opened at the West Hill Hall, is from a younger generation of wry Yorkshiremen, setting a dry quasi-talking blues style vocal against rather more original and accomplished guitar parts than that description might lead you to expect. Here's a taste.
The Coal Porters played The Greys and it was a warm and always entertaining evening. I find their recent original songs of varying quality, but they choose some classy covers ('Teenage Kicks', 'Like A Hurricane') and are a reliably strong ensemble, with Carly Frey's fiddle outstanding. Sid Griffin's a hero, of course - just one Long Ryders song this time, should have been more - and I'd always go and see them when they're in town.
Right, that's caught up with 2012.
March will bring Van Morrison at The Dome (fingers crossed, as always, but The Guardian just gave him a 5* review, which is hopeful...) and The Civil Wars at Komedia (fresh from winning two Grammys, so no doubt heading for bigger halls next time round).