Thursday, August 29, 2019

Gig Review - Nashville Sounds In The Round - August 2019

Gasoline & Matches hosted another excellent Songwriters Round – Nashville Sounds In The Round – on Wednesday night.

With a line up gathered from Norwich, Israel, Colorado and Nashville, as well as Birmingham of course – there was not a single tassle or drop of glitter on stage, which could make you question what type of Country performance this would be.  The answer was – a cracking night of music, storytelling and laughter.  The main “culprit” for much of this was Kenny Foster – who we now all know as “Kenton”, his real name being outed by Sally Rea – who started his own performance with a story about  sausages, a gag which was kept going by all on stage. This set the tone for the evening of repeated jokes and light-hearted banter between performers

This banter and quick wit truly reflects the ability of those on stage to express themselves through words, be it in song or story. It isn’t just humour that comes across, it is often raw emotion, and we were privileged to hear a deeply personal song from Steven Marks about his Father which he rarely performs in public.

A songwriters round allows the performers to share the stories behind the songs, and we discover that they can take inspiration from almost anywhere – the quirky tribute to 60s music from duo OandO being a great example.

The round also allows a glimpse of the performers stripped right back to simply guitar and vocals. Sam Coe, perched in the middle of the line up showed us the sheer power and control of her voice when singing her first solo release Hard Times which is available for pre order now, and all the artists sell their CDs and merchandise which gives the audience a chance to meet, chat and get selfies.

Although the round is made up of 4 distinct acts, it almost becomes a jam session, with backing vocals and strumming guitars, plus Steven’s guitar wizardry. A mass sing along for the final round which included those parts of the audience who remember the great Billy Ray Cyrus and the classic Achy Breaky Heart.

Francesca was attending her first Nashville Sounds in The Round which was also watched over by Dolly, Johnny and Willy. All four gave their approval of a great night of music and stories

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Single Review - Speed Of Anything - Two Ways Home

Rik has met Isabella and Lewis of Two Ways Home on a few occasions, and seeing them is like bumping in to old friends.  Appropriately then, their new song is about old friends and developing a relationship.  Listening to the song is quite like listening to an interview with the pair, as they both contribute in turn, adding detail, joining their experiences, much as they do when singing Speed Of Anything

I last saw Two Ways Home on stage at Country In The Afternoon where they performed with a full band, prior to that as a duo at Nashville Meets London, and prior to that as an acoustic pair at a songwriters round. Having seen them in different formats, I asked whether they had a preference. Isi replied
It’s cool to have the opportunity to do different things
Lewis added
When you play with the full band you try to roll from one song to the next, smoothly, but in a songwriters round it needs to be personable and you get to talk between songs…its great to be able to do both of them
Lewis and Isi support the #ImHere campaign

Although Isabella is from Austria and Lewis from the West Midlands, they met in London when Isabella needed a guitarist for her covers band. From there they developed their sound, leaning towards Country, visited America and soaked up the influences.  For Isi, music was always a part of her family life, with a Grandmother who was a singer her family would always be singing. Lewis’s father was a singer and guitarist, and “subtly” left a guitar laying around for a 5 year old Lewis to pick up, and by the time he hit his teens, Lewis wanted to learn to play it properly and take music seriously. When you hear Lewis let rip on guitar you can understand that this was clearly a good process!

Isi believes that they work well as songwriters because
It makes better songs when you are writing with someone you trust
Lewis agreed, saying that as a pair they can be brutally honest with each other – and apparently for Isi, not just when writing!

The new song Speed Of Anything seems to reflect them very well. Telling the story of a couple of
kids living down the street...just waiting to meet
the song starts as it means to go on.  Isi and Lewis combine to tell the story from both sides, swapping vocals just like an old married couple, and combines a pop opening with heavier instrumentation taking us through the tale.

Where were going, where we’ve been – once again, the song seems to reflect a chat with two Ways Home, and it will be great to see where they go…

The new single from Two Ways Home Speed Of Anything is available from 30 August

See the duo live on their Caffe Nero coffee shop tour in August and September plus extra live dates through October and November – or just bump into them, like old friends….

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Single Review - Hard Time - Sam Coe

Sam Coe has gone solo
And sassy,
And a little dark

And none of those are a bad thing!

Although she has been with her band The Long Shadows for 4 years, and they have been signed to Ginger Dog Records for 2 years, Sam has always been writing “other” music, mostly on the piano in between teaching classes, and the material she has written is not for a band sound, so she has decided to make an album of just her – quite a leap!

I met up with Sam just as she came off stage for only her second ever solo performance, and the very first thing that she asked me was “was that ok?”

It feels like I’m a fraud – when you’ve been in a band so long you get used to having people with you to cover up the mistakes or make me sound better than I am. When you play by yourself you are so exposed there’s nowhere to hide vocally or musically

Its an understandable feeling – although I was quick to assure Sam that solo (accompanied only by Kevin from her record label) she sounded great, and in fact she performed a Chris Isaak cover that she absolutely knocked out of the park. Sam has been playing with bands since she was 15 years old, initially with a Country and Western Show band, then with a girl group supporting Take That on Tour and latterly, having come back to Country Music with the Long Shadows.

Talking to Sam, you quickly realise that music is very much her life, and she really believes in the authenticity of Country Music, mainly from a British rather than faux US perspective. As well as performing, Sam teaches music and runs two choirs. Through the choirs Sam says

You can see how singing together as one voice can change lives

And she describes music as a form of therapy for herself feeling strongly about the authenticity of Country Music and song writing

Comes back to that word “authenticity” – it  feels the most truthful form of myself while writing expressing my own thoughts and feelings through a medium I am most comfortable with

What about that sassy, dark new song? Featuring heavy beats, with Sam’s voice standing proud over the instruments and written in only ten minutes, Hard Time is a story of a couple separated by a Prison wall, but both still strong, strong together and strong apart

It feels like a metaphor for Sam’s own musical career!

The new album is due out this year, with the intention that every song will stand alone as deserving a place on the track listing. If this first release is anything to go by, the album will be one of the best this year

Hard Time, the first solo release from Sam Coe is available on 6 September.

Sam will be singing at Nashville Sounds in The Round next Wednesday, drinking at Millport Country Music Festival next weekend and on Facebook in her new solo, sassy guise

Monday, August 19, 2019

Album Review - The Acoustic Sessions Vol 2 - Donna Marie Songs

Donna Marie has a new release out this week. Titled “The Acoustic Sessions” it is exactly as described – an EP of Donna’s fabulous voice accompanied – mostly – by just an acoustic guitar.  The stripped back acoustics of this EP allow you to sit back and reflect on the words.  

Donna Marie has a very warm and soothing voice, and these tracks are produced perfectly to highlight her vocals over the backing instrumentation.  Donna Marie is also a very talented writer, writing songs that you want to listen to, with themes that everyone can understand and relate to.  You don’t just listen to her songs, you feel them.

First track on the EP – Run, is apparently about running to a lover, but on a second listen it feels like a metaphor for life – running through life, climbing hills until you achieve…whatever you are personally running to.

The second track is a song written 13 years ago and is an apology to a young nephew for not having time to spend with him, and losing sight of what is important in life.  I’m sure that all these years later he understands and forgives Donna Today and every day.  Just Words is a great reminder for us all!

Track 3 – On The Road was Donna’s last single which we reviewed and loved.  This is a chance to hear an acoustic version of a much-streamed song

Pity Party will be the next single, and we are fortunate to hear an acoustic preview of the full mix for future release. Again, a reflective song, but without need for apology this time!

The EP is rounded off with another re-worked track – Broken Love was originally released in 2015, and as with all the tracks it really benefits from being stripped back to become almost an entirely new song

Donna Marie will be performing an acoustic set on The Maverick Magazine stage at Millport Country Festival – and if this EP is any indication of what we will be hearing it will be an unmissable performance.

We will be there front and centre, appreciating her voice and reflecting on her words

Donna Marie Songs – The Acoustic Sessions Volume 2 is released on 22 August. Pre-order it here 

Album Review - Tips In A Jar - Tennessee Twin

Cambridge based modern country duo 'Tennessee Twin', consisting of Geoff Meads and Victoria Mills have gone straight in at No.1 on the iTunes UK Country Chart with their debut EP 'Tips In A Jar'.

The pair won the Nashville Music City / BA song-writing competition in March 2018 with their single 'Wings Of Red, White & Blue'. They’ve since been writing, recording and gigging regularly including appearances at Cambridge Folk Festival and Corn On The Cob. 

Speaking about their chart success they said 

Reaching no.1 is a dream for any musician and we were more than a little shocked to grab the top position in the Country Chart on Friday! It’s a humbling experience and we’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has come along to see us, listened to our music and bought our songs.


Tennessee Twin very kindly sent us an advance copy of the CD. The whole EP is easy to listen to, with beautiful melodies, and very personal lyrics which are drawn from their own experiences but also reflect experiences we have all had. Geoff and Victoria’s voices are captivating when singing solo and combine into very rich harmonies. As they say “Hold my hand, together we are strong” 

The five tracks. although linked by the great vocals and song writing each have their own sound - some country, some a little more UK folk, but all are great songs.

Tips In A Jar’ is available now on all major music platforms. The full CD release is available from the Tennessee Twin website and from live shows.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Artist Profile - When Rik met Peter Calamera

After chatting with Jessica Lynn about how much her family mean to her and to her music, I obviously wanted to hear more, so I caught up with Dad Peter before they took to the stage.  

As with everyone, I wanted to know how Peter came to music. Interestingly it was at the same age as Jessica – Peter was just a teenager when he first heard the Beatles, specifically watching a Hard Day’s Night with his sister and he thought
That looks a lot of fun
In another similarity, Jessica’s teen band played exactly the same club as Peter’s teenage band 26 years to the day that Peter last played there

You can’t see Peter without seeing his wife Victoria, and they are such a wonderful couple, so how did they meet?  Well, unsurprisingly it was music that brought them together.  Peter was adamant that he didn’t write for the female voice when an agent suggested a singer for his band. Victoria walked in and was introduced and Peter right away said 
You know what, I think I can work with her
33 years later, 31 years of marriage I guess he was right!

Peter shares Jessica’s comments about the difference between performing in America to the UK and Europe. In his own words

We love the UK audiences – its completely different to US audiences.  As Tim has just said on stage  it is so nice to be in front of people listening to the music, whereas in America it is more of a social occasion

As a New York Italian, and an ex New York police officer, I was curious to hear about the family dynamic from Peter’s point of view – being the patriarch but being in his daughter’s band

It’s interesting, there’s two dynamics all the time. I’ve been working with her since she was 13, but I’m always the Dad. In the band you have to shelve the Dad hat, she talks to you like another musician. Jessica always has the final say, but she knows that I know music and she trusts me to this day. But we butt heads, because we are Italian! Five minutes later we’re hugging

Out of being on stage with your family, your US guitar showing your pride in being American, your NYPD background… what makes you proudest?

My family. I’d like to think it’s the  work that  I’ve done as a father I’ve loved my job as a cop, I loved helping people in the NYPD, but above all its looking at my family and I see things that we’ve done that a pretty great accomplishments.  If you told me twenty years ago when I retired from the NYPD that 20 years from now you are going to be travelling the world with your family playing music, going to all these great places and meeting wonderful people, I’d think you were smoking something
That’s what I’m most proud of, we’ve accomplished something nice and I’m really proud of Jessica. When we meet people around the world, our family is growing, we’re doing something right.
Talking to Peter, you can feel as well as hear how proud he is and how much he loves doing what he gets to do with his very extended family, not just the family on stage!

When you see the band playing you can certainly see how much they love performing for their crowds, their fans, their friends, their family!

Jessica Lynn – with her Dad on bass – perform tonight (Tuesday) at Dronfield Civic Hall, on Wednesday 14 August Square Tower, Old Portsmouth and they finish their UK tour on Thursday 15 August at Old School Hall, East Farleigh, Maidstone

Monday, August 12, 2019

Artist Profile - When Rik Met Jessica Lynn

When I met up with Jessica Lynn ahead of the Birmingham date on her UK tour, the word that cropped up most in the chat was “family”  if you haven’t seen Jessica perform, you may not realise that basically her whole band is family – Husband on lead guitar, Dad on bass, Mom on backing vocals, “Uncle” Bob on pedal Steel and her percussionist was even a “bridesman” at her wedding

I had to ask then, how does the family dynamic work with the band
People feel the genuine love and connection we have for each other. People come to the shows and they feel like family because you’re with family
Having had some issues with previous bands, Jessica wanted to be a solo artist, in her own words
If anybody is ever going to screw this up for me again its going to be me 
and the later band became “Jessica Lynn”

As a family band, I had to ask how you resolve musical conflicts, especially as your dad is literally stood right behind you?
I’m in charge 
said Jessica with a laugh 
My family is great and respecting that it is my vision and my project and they are always there to offer support and ideas and everybody comes to the table with ideas.  It’s the pieces of everybody that makes the sound what it is
Is it harder to bounce ideas when the band is so close?

Its easier. Because you can be super honest.  With other people you don’t want to hurt feelings but we can just look at each other and say “that sucks” so it makes it a lot more honest and easy

Coming from a musical family – Dad Pete and Mum Victoria met through music – it was pretty inevitable that Jessica would take to music.  The story starts with her first band at the age of 13 with her parents driving her all over New York City playing Rock ‘n’ Roll in clubs that she was too young to actually go to, but always listening to country music. At age 18 Jessica formed a Wedding band which was the start of music being her living post high school. Incorporating family into that band then transitioned to become Jessica Lynn

The band tour Europe every year – so what keeps bringing Jessica and the family back?
Its really the people. The people here just love live music so much. There is a certain vibrance for live entertainment and music in Europe.  In the states a lot of concerts are a party, its about the atmosphere, the dancing and the drinking; here in Europe the crowd are just watching, they are there for the music not for  the beer and the dancing, it’s a very cool experience as a songwriter to have the undivided attention for something you have worked so hard to create
However, when comparing the audiences, Jessica doesn’t have a preference, she enjoys the different experiences, which adds to the excitement of a tour

Jessica Lynn plays concerts at US Military bases overseas, bringing a little bit of home to them which is clearly a source of great pride.  What does Jessica want to bring to the non-American audiences?

I’m bringing a piece of home, but also a piece of myself.  When you listen to my music its like reading my diary, and its kind of scary to read your diary out loud to thousands of people, but that’s what’s cool about live music. And that’s what I try to bring in my live shows is a genuineness about my life and my music – what you see is what you get with us

I was curious to know who has influenced Jessica the most.  Jessica had to give two answers – Gwen Stefani from her rocker days in terms of energy and performance, but for song writing, music and delivery her biggest single influence is Neil Diamond. Not quite the answer I was expecting!

Surrounded by family, influenced by the greats and an act honed in the clubs of New York Jessica Lynn is a delight to meet and chat with, and a sheer joy to watch performing.

Catch the rest of her UK tour if you can, and catch her online, on YouTube and for certain on a future UK tour

Friday, August 9, 2019

Artist profile - When Francesca met Tim...

Standing in the Lexington on Tuesday evening and seeing the first ever performance from The Fatherline I knew that I just had to have a chat with the confident guy stood on stage with excellent banter who seemed oddly familiar...

Following on from a comment on stage about age, that’s where our conversation started. A little bit of flattery never hurts and puts everyone in a good mood, not that it was required after such a good set.

This wasn’t Tim’s first ever gig like he suggested, but it was the first where he was stood centre stage, so of course I wanted to know how it felt and compared. In short Tim replied,
 Everything is on you!
He went on to explain: 
I’ve been doing this over 20 years, being in bands and tonight was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done; a pub in London compared to Hyde Park or the Opry. There's something very personal when it's just you that just writes the music it's very very personal.

Tim played down his background and where he had performed, focusing instead on The Fatherline, I couldn’t help but wonder why he didn’t launch his new band on his former glory and play the big I am. Tim explained that it wasn’t something he would ever want to see in another artist and:

at the end of the day I am who I am; this is how I dress; I've always wanted it this way I wouldn't dress differently in a different band or to look more country.
Photo by LittleNinjaPhotography

Tim had said on stage that he didn’t know what The Fatherline was (in musical terms) and that he didn’t care, with a lot of current debate about what is and what isn’t country music, I thought it was worth pursuing. Tim doesn’t describe The Fatherline as a country band, in fact he says its barely Americana,
 “it is what it is
Tim went on to say that 
if I’m going to write a  country song and if we can mould it into what the The Fatherline is, then fantastic, if it works it works, if it doesn't I'll give it to another artist,  I do a lot of writing for  other people and production for other bands and artists, I love that to me I can get all that creative stuff out whether it's for me or whether it's for someone else it all comes out so that's all that matters.

In my view The Fatherline’s music had an honesty about it and represented the truth. We agreed that UK country is singing about the truth, what you know. However, Tim added an air of concern, that there was a pressure in the back of your mind you must consider your audience and how to reach those that are going the buy the albums or attend the gigs.

The Fatherline is a group and Tim hopes that as a unit they will create music together and the sound will change naturally. No pressure on Steve or Rich then!

Performing is a drug, these were the lyrics of one of the songs. Talking to Tim, it appears it certainly is as he explains that to be able to write is a freedom. On stage he doesn’t think about what he is doing or how he moves, what happens, happens.  Tim talks about getting lost in his music and hopes that the listeners do too, they will take The Fatherline forward.

Help Tim feed his habit, get addicted and listen to or see The Fatherline as soon as you can.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Gig Review - Live out Loud Tour - Jessica Lynn w/support

Jessica Lynn and her band have reached the UK (again) on her their European tour – a tour that started sometime in May!  First date on the UK leg was at the Lexington in Islington, which really felt like a proper old fashioned intimate live venue.

Opening act for the Lexington was a brand new band – The Fatherline, with a very familiar looking bearded face fronting it. Tim PJ, who was one quarter of the Wandering Hearts until recently, took to the stage for his first gig with this new band: Steven Marks on Bass and Rich Watson on lead guitar.  Although obviously not new to performing, Tim took his position, centre stage like a natural demonstrating  stage presence and with good humoured banter. His own music is raw and heartfelt, and went down really well with the assembled crowd.

Next up were Gasoline & Matches who will be opening for Jessica on a number of dates on this tour.  Performing as a four piece, Sally Rea Morris and Steven Marks were joined by regular bassist Jamie Clayton and stepping in on drums was Pano Moullaris.  Although they have an album out very soon, Gasoline & Matches are very much a live band, as evidenced by their barnstorming Paddock Stage set at the recent Buckle & Boots festival, and tonight was no difference.  Their individual musical skills – especially Steve’s guitar work and Sally’s ability to own a stage – means that every show is slightly different, and with Pano pounding the skins, they really brought out their rocking side which was in tune with the venue.

Jessica Lynn doesn’t walk onto a stage, she bounces on, and she bounces for the whole performance.  The whole band really know how to put on a SHOW, and the energy they bring and the fun they are having is evident from start to finish.  In fact, it isn’t so much a show as a party on stage – and we are all invited to join in!  Dance if you wanna dance, sing if you wanna sing, but be sure you put your arms in the air!  

Jessica treated us to a mix of her older songs, new music, tracks from her new album and some well placed rock covers.  It is difficult to pick out highlights from such a show, but… Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls and a cover of 9 to 5 played as though they owned those songs, the unmissable Roadhouse which had every person in the room joining in and an impromptu dance group at the back of the room consisting of Silverball Country, Sally Rea and Lauren, dragged away from the merch stand! It’s not a Jessica Lynn gig now without an amazing rendition of Johnny B Goode, which  showcased the talent of this band with Uncle Bob stepping up front on guitar and  Jessica moving back to drums.

From start to finish the evening was a great showcase of musical talent, and from start to finish the headline set was a high energy party, even on a Tuesday night.

This is a tour you really should catch – Birmingham tonight and all dates and tickets on

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Single Review - Bristol Boy - Molly-Anne

Bristol Boy is the latest single from British artist Molly-Anne.  Written by Molly-Anne Chinner and produced by Andy Guy at Doghouse Studio, the song is a nostalgic nod to the sound of the noughties with elements of Pop-Punk, Americana, Rock Country and Blues threaded throughout.

The song reminisces about the past and, as the title suggests, about a Bristol boy and a summer love story. A vivid picture is created as we hear about the drinking, the tripping on magic mushrooms and we are taken on an aural tour of Bristol. I picture a girl spinning around, arms outstretched as she sings.

It’s upbeat right from the start and the music flows with Molly-Ann’s voice beautifully. An added male voice features with the song.  

The beautiful guitar solo is over far too quickly, maybe reflective of the relationship and indeed the song ends rather abruptly, as did this brief summer relationship!

My head is spinning trying the figure out where to place the song, it’s not country in my book, with more of a folksy feel, but you will almost certainly find yourself singing along with the chorus.

Bristol Boy, The new single from Molly Anne is available to download from all platforms on 23 August, pre-orders from 13 August.

Molly Anne can be found on Facebook, online and running across Clifton Bridge…

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Single Review - Endless Summer - The Rising

Belfast based band The Rising have a new single out – and the release is perfectly timed. 

Endless Summer is a bouncy, up-tempo song, it is fast paced from the get-go, opening with drums and guitars before introducing Chantelle McAteer on vocals. The song is about memories of summer, and it is simple and poppy as all good summer tracks should be, reflecting that positivity we all feel at the beginning of the summer, remembering those school holidays when we were younger that seem to have been 6 weeks of non-stop sunshine -  when we look back. The song has a kind of American Teen dream feel – but you can definitely detect the Northern Irish lilt in the vocals!
Overall, Endless Summer is a feelgood track – and as I write this on a grey August day, that’s exactly what I need to listen to! The repetition of “summer summer” certainly helps remind me that is supposed to be summer already…

This is only the second track from The Rising that I have listened to and reviewed, and I have to say that I like the upbeat take they seem to have. Let’s see what the rest of the promised album holds in store!

Endless Summer the new single from the Rising is released on 2 August and is available on all the usual platforms.

The Rising can be found on facebook, online and basking in the Belfast sunshine….