BAPTISTS AND BELLS
In the last month, I’ve seen Coventry’s finest set blues and soul practitioners The Baptists on not one but two occasions and in both instances they were quite different performances. The first one was electric at the Albany Pub. The second occasion was part of the always excellent “Parkers” evening run by Neil Hunter from the band in question and excellent local singer Ruth Roberts at The Jacobean Hotel on the Holyhead Road.
Both incarnations of this band are, I think, extremely powerful. Not least due to the very soulful strong voice and excellent harmonica playing of front man Jason Toynbee. This is complimented by the imaginative songwriting of Neil Hunter and the always first rate slide guitar playing of the Reverend Ryan Every (because of his grasp of first rate blues playing of the pre-war variant. He’s not a man of the cloth).
Set highlights for me are their slowed down version of Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” and their version of the Little Willie John classic “Fever”, made famous by Peggy Lee. A particular highlight of the aforementioned “Parkers” evening was Ruth and Neil’s duet covering Gillian Welch’s “Dark Turn of Mind.”
Care of the splendid Elaine Tierney, we had an evening of great music (as we do every month) at the Nursery Tavern. The first of these performances was an impromptu set from local singer and songwriter Jade Ward. She didn’t even know she was playing until she arrived at the venue intending to be part of the audience and considering that, her set was even better than it usually is (and it’s always lovely). As she said herself “I didn’t have time to be scared!!”
Also on the bill was the ever brilliant Sarah Bennett and along with Hannah O’Neill and Amelia Roberts are now a trio calling themselves “Raptorface” (no, me neither) and they were tremendous fun performing a set of very well chosen cover versions (performing them indivdually and collectively) including songs by Gillian Welch, Flaming lips, Bright Eyes and John Prine.
Headlining that evening was the ever brilliant Dan Gascoigne and if anyone had told me, prior to watching his set that the King Crimson classic “21st Century Schizoid Man” would work with one man on an acousitc guitar with a few effects, I would have probably thought you were mad. I’m happy to report that it actually sounded fantastic. The rest of his set included numbers by Skip James and John Mayall, some of Dan’s own songs from his excellent album “Station Street West” and some material from his forthcoming album which I’m told should be released later this year.
Finally for this month, we come to the first major show of the year courtesy of Tin Music and Arts and I’m delighted to report that headlining said event were my favourite contemporary British band, Glasgow’s finest, Trembling Bells in one of their collaborations with Mike Heron, formerly of 60s psychedelic Scottish legends, The Incredible String Band.
The Bells (as I’m sure no-one else calls them) are responsible for recording four of the best albums of British music that I have in my collection and I’m somebody that owns over a thousand long players. Stuart Maconie once described their sound as “Fairport Convention meets The Mothers of Invention” and frankly I can’t think of a better comparrison. They combine glorious British folk rock with lots of avant-garde elements.
The songwriting (and singing) of the band’s drummer Alex Neilson (who also curated this event) and the way they are sung by front woman and multi-instrumentalist, Lavinia Blackwall, are as far as I’m concerned the greatest combination in contemporary music and I’m delighted to report that their fifth LP (due for release in June 2015) is being released by Coventry’s very own “Tin Angel Records”.
Their set itself was the best I’ve seen them perform to date, which I was kind of expecting as I think they improve with every performance. Particular highlights for me were the single they recorded with Heron “The Feast of Stephen”, “Seven Years a Teardrop” performed acapella by Neilson and Blackwall (from The Bells’ excellent debut album “Carbeth”) and the Incredible String band classic “The Hedgehog Song”. I’m reliably informed the the editor of this esteemed blog’s brother sings the third of these to his daughter as a lullaby.
The support slots at the above gig were provided by Laura Cannell who gave us some beautiful medieval style instrumentals and by MacGillivray, whose set was extremely haunting and beautiful and this lady’s voice is the only one I’ve ever heard that successfully combines the singing of both Sinead O’Connor and June Tabor!!
More delights coming our way in the coming month including “Two City Sounds” where Coventry meets Hull…..