Jun 252015

Shooglenifty UntiedGraham Stephen reviews the album by Shooglenifty, ‘The Untied Knot’.

In the 1990s Scottish music exploded out of the buttoned-up confines of strict-tempo and village ceilidhs into the arena of dance, rave and world music thanks to innovators like Shooglenifty, who along with other maverick experimentalists such as Martyn Bennett and Afro Celt Sound System, gave Celtic music a much needed skelp in the lug, adrenalising the traditional by adding irresistible grooves and beats to jigs and reels.

On their seventh studio album, The Untied Knot, Shooglenifty celebrate their 25th anniversary by adding another dimension, the ethereal vocals of Mouth Music’s Kaela Rowan.

Diehard fans should be reassured that the recognisable Shoogle components are all basically intact. The jingling mandolins, tinkling banjos, swampy guitar breaks and the free-flowing fiddle of Angus Grant are all grounded by the rhythmic empathy of drummer James Mackintosh, whose importance in modern Scottish traditional music is immeasurable.

Tunes like the enigmatic, eastern flavoured ‘The Scorpian/Devil’s Breath Hornpipe’, the dancy, funky drive of ‘The Highway Carpark’ and Ewan Macpherson’s hypnotic ‘Somebody’s Welcome to Somewhere’, all create familiar multi-layered soundscapes of intricate instrumental interplay. The latter is particularly enhanced by the invaluable guest appearance of Ross Ainslie on pipes, whose whistle also delivers the poignant slow air of the title track.

Yet it is Rowan’s vocal input that defines the album, ‘Peaches/Monkwell Road/ Meal Do Bhrogan’ shows how effectively her voice can be integrated into the established band sound, becoming another instrument, rhythmically winding melodies around the groove, adding a human edge to the cascading tunes.

Perhaps the novelty of having a singer means that her voice is a little overused, with occasional drifts towards bland Capercaillie territory, where a little more cross cultural edginess would be more intriguing. However, any reservations are more than compensated by tracks as strong as former member Luke Plumb’s uplifting ‘The Arms of Sleep’ and Grant’s closing stirring Antipodean creation ‘Fitzroy Crossing’ with its archive Gaelic samples, electronica and more telling whistle from Ainslie.

Shooglenifty’s twenty-five years have been a meandering collaborative adventure, valuing gigs in rainforests and village halls above stadiums and huge commercial success, and all the more interesting for that. This latest album, presented in a very fine John Byrne cover, is an intriguing development of their sound and as strong a studio set as they have released.

Listen/Purchase here – Shooglenifty – The Untied Knot (Shoogle 15015)

Apr 172015

Trouble With The Blues is the fourth album from the Gerry Jablonski Band. It’s a classic compendium racing up and down the full spectrum of The Blues, and it’s absolutely cracking. Suzanne Kelly stops listening to it long enough to review.

Trouble With The Blues CoverThe Gerry Jablonski Band has come up with their best album yet, although it’s not as if they’ve released any flawed albums before. Twist of Fate, their last album was rightly well received.

But on Trouble With The Blues, the high production values, writing, playing, solos and vocals have reached new, highly-gelled heights. My first initial reaction is that I must see them do this material live as soon as possible.

The lyrics run from playful, for example in ‘The Curse’, to heartbreakingly raw and painful.

This emotion comes in no small measure from the sad passing of the band’s long-standing percussionist Dave Innes, who tragically passed away one year ago after illness. The last piece, ‘I Confess’ puts me in mind of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy which painfully questions existence; if you hear the song, you’ll perhaps take my meaning.

In ‘I Confess’, the lyrics are initially filled with sorrow:

“I never felt this way before until my friend passed away”

– as direct and crushing as a lyric can get. As it reaches a crescendo, the lyrics increasingly expose more raw pain, self-contempt and anger mirrored in the poignant vocals. All the while the guitar grows correspondingly louder and more insistent.

It’s cathartic for anyone who’s had such a loss; such a person will identify with this song and likewise be moved. It’s incredibly honest, as is ‘Anybody.’

‘Anybody’ is also a mournful, classic blues. Clapton would have been happy to have come up with this song. The instrumentals are minimal, while Jablonski sings

“I’m only human after all.  I’ve been through my changes; don’t know which way to turn.  All my friends are doing fine.  So somebody, could be anybody, take me to the light.”

Jablonski - Credit - Peter Narojczyk (1)People are going to be singing along to this when they hear it live, I guarantee it. The only thing I’d say is that this sweet song is one I could imagine with a gospel choir on the chorus towards the end; i.e. the ‘Under The Bridge’ effect if you will. But other than that suggestion, I’ve no fault to find with this accomplished album.

Jablonski’s voice has never been in better form; the guitar work, and especially the guitar solos have also taken things up a notch. The title track ‘Trouble with the Blues’ has a scorcher of a solo, for instance.

But this album is a group effort, a team production. The entire band shares the song writing credits. There are polished bass lines and funky bass solos: ‘Trouble With The Blues’ has a great solo. Once again Peter Peter Narojczyk’s harmonica work is versatile, polished, expressive; Jerry Portnoy would approve. Lewis Fraser is now on the drums. He’s done a brilliant piece of work on this album. Mr Innes would approve.

I’ve dwelt on two melancholy, soul-baring tracks so far; but ultimately this album is celebratory.  ‘Lady & I’ is upbeat and sassy; ‘The Curse’ is great fun.  Then again so is ‘Fork Fed Dog’ – down, dirty, fun. I can imagine sets opening with this high-voltage track. It’s a tremendous track and I look forward to experiencing it live. ‘Big Bad World’ is a nice sharp bit of social commentary and a good showplace for Narojczyk, with a short but sharp Jablonski solo.

Live dates are indeed coming; for more information on this album and where to catch the Gerry Jablonski band, see the website here:  www.gerryjablonskiband.com . I also understand that a video is forthcoming, shot at least in part in Aberdeen’s D-Range recording studio.

Jablonski - Credit - Peter Narojczyk (3)There is a great deal of debate in Aberdeen now about what is or is not culture, and what Aberdeen’s greatest cultural assets are. This album is as strong a hint as you can possibly get on that score.

This is not a piece of work to listen to once and forget; it will be going on your iPod and going where you go.

Having seen their Facebook updates during the project, and how happy they were to be at Abbey Road, I must say I’m very happy they’ve come out with such a strong, varied, memorable work. Nice work, gentlemen.

Apr 032015

Heyrocco3With thanks to Warren Higgins.

South Carolina natives, Heyrocco will be bringing their infectious mix of grunge-pop to Aberdeen Lemon Tree on the 15th April ahead of the release of their upcoming debut album.

After making waves at home and abroad last year, Heyrocco continue to win fans on both sides of the pond the band are now set to unleash their stunning debut album ‘Teenage Movie Soundtrack’ on June 8th, via Vital Music Group.

The album is a perfect marriage of grungy angst and bubblegum pop. ‘Teenage Movie Soundtrack’ lends itself as much to the A-List radio airwaves as it does to the grimy basements in which these tracks were written.

Already being compared to the likes of Nirvana, Pavement, The Cure and Mudhoney, the album is packed to the rafters with gargantuan choruses, sludgy guitar hooks, and boasts stellar made-for-radio melodies

From the slushy, yet happy Weezer-esque opener ‘Loser Denial’, to the sleazy, chugs of ‘Melt’ and ‘Mom Jeans’, to the grunge-laden tracks ‘Virgin’ and ‘Happy’, right down to the more laid-back sounds of ‘Allison’ and ‘Santa Fe (Stupid Lovesong)’, Heyrocco have produced a work of undeniable sonic gratification, with an abundance of mucky guitars and the vocals of singer Nathan Jake Merli, sound-tracking the voice of disheveled youth.

Nathan (Guitar and Vocals), along with Chris Cool (Bass, and yes, that’s real name) and Tanner ‘Taco’ Cooper first plugged-in the amps in their parents’ garages five years ago in South Carolina and were soon touring across the United States in their beaten up old van.

Their first UK tour at the end of last year brought their explosive live show to a rabid audience, including a sold out show in front of 1,400 people for Club NME @ KOKO. They also have been lighting up the radio airwaves with support from Zane Lowe, Huw Stephens and Phil Taggart at Radio 1, alongside XFM & Kerrang Radio.

The band are set to hit UK shores in April with a 12-date tour in support to The Xcerts, stopping off at The Borderline in London. Following this, Heyrocco will embark on a series of their own headline dates.

“Cue the light wash denim jeans and tattoo chokers because Heyrocco’s new single launches us right into 90’s teenage movie nostalgia. Like these Southern sweethearts, we admittedly might not have been the coolest kids in high school—but at least we can pretend like we were while listening to some 90’s inspired rock and roll.” – NYLON

“‘Virgin’ mimics the angst-ridden grunge of Nirvana, while flecks of Pavement ensure a distinctly nostalgic flavour to these guitar heroes” – NME

“Set in high school, with its corrosive mixture of The Cure and Mudhoney conjuring up all manner of adolescent fury” – Clash


10th – Guildford, Boiler Room
11th – Tunbridge Wells, Forum
13th – York, Duchess
14th – Hull, Fruit
15th – Aberdeen, Lemon Tree  
16th – Inverness, Ironworks
17th – Edinburgh, Mash House
19th – Birmingham, Rainbow
20th – London, The Borderline
21st – Cambridge, Portland Arms
22nd – Northampton, Roadmenders
23rd – Exeter, Cavern


28th April – London, Seabright Arms
29th April – Chelmsford, Undertone

Feb 272015

steve nimmo trioBy David Innes.

Graham Robertson and Kenny Taylor’s Facebook page had me intrigued.

Blues, in all its guises, is a healthy obsession, so a chat was in order.

Graham provides the words.

So, Graham, what inspired you to begin promoting gigs in Aberdeen?

Kenny and I are both huge fans of live music and regularly travel to gigs all over the place.

‘We had thought about promoting, but when our friend Linda from Newcastle gave us the chance to bring Ryan McGarvey to Aberdeen, we decided to take the chance. Having seen him a few times before, we knew how talented he was, and it would be a challenge and a great opportunity for our first show. Ryan, Kenny and I were very pleased with the turnout out of 121, given that he’s virtually unknown in Aberdeen. There’s definitely a demand for blues rock out there with Joe Bonamassa pulling a crowd of over 3000 when he played the AECC in September.

We started our Facebook page since it’s much easier to get word out via social media. Over 200 people are following the page in the short time it’s been up and running, and we’re considering the merits of having our own website.

As fans of live music it is also quite important for us to keep the tickets at affordable prices.

So why Blues Rock? Are you attempting to get into a niche here, or are you open to acoustic acts, Delta interpreters etc? What if Eric Bibb was looking for a gig in the NE?

We’d be open to acoustic gigs, but are focusing initially on electric blues rock for the first two or three years until we get ourselves established. We’d then consider taking Eric Bibb to Aberdeen if it was financially viable.

What were your personal highlights of 2014?

2014 was very good year for us. Obviously starting up Blues Rock Aberdeen and putting on our first two gigs – Ryan McGarvey and The Nimmo Brothers were the main highlights.

In March I travelled to New York to see The Allman Brothers Band play two nights during their run at The Beacon Theatre. A week after I’d booked the tickets they announced that 2014 was going to be their final year, so that made the concerts even more special.

In May we both attended The Rory Gallagher Tribute Festival in Ballyshannon, where Rory was born. It was a brilliant, with over twenty bands playing over the weekend. Fans attended from all over the world and I even had a pint with a guy who had travelled from Australia especially for the festival.

The overwhelming highlight of 2014 for me, though, was the Harvest Time Blues Festival in Monaghan, Ireland at the beginning of September. It came as a real surprise, as I didn’t think anything could top seeing The Allman Brothers Band.

laurence jonesThe whole festival was particularly well-run and had a great variety of bands. Almost every bar had live bands playing including Crow Black Chicken and The Hardchargers from Ireland. Doug MacLeod, Lil’ Jimmy Reed, Bnois King and Smokin’ Joe Kubek all played, and 81 year old Leo Bud Welch graced the acoustic stage.

The main stage started at 2230 and had a wealth of talent with Monaghan’s own Grainne Duffy, Mud Morganfield, Royal Southern Brotherhood, and my favourite band over the whole weekend The Steepwater Band from Chicago. I would highly recommend The Harvest Time Blues Festival to anyone.

In November Kenny went to The Blues Fest at The Royal Albert Hall taking in many great acts including The Hoax, Beth Hart and Robert Cray, but his highlight of 2014 was seeing Gary Clark Jr blowing away the crowd in Manchester.

And your three favourite blues albums of 2014?

2014 was a fantastic year for blues albums. Our top three in no particular order were:

Rival Sons – Great Western Valkyrie

Gary Clark Jr – Live

Beth Hart  and Joe Bonamassa – Live in Amsterdam

And who would you predict for glory in 2015?

Blues Pills from Sweden who impressed us greatly when we saw them support Rival Sons in Glasgow in December.

Ryan McGarvey, a very special talent. I’m sure everyone who saw his gig in June will agree

Ruf Records’ Laurence Jones, We first saw him support Royal Southern Brotherhood in Kendal in 2011. It’s been really good to see him mature as a musician when we’ve seen him at one or two blues festivals in the last couple of years and when he supported Kenny Wayne Shepherd in Edinburgh last year, he went off to a standing ovation. He just gets better and better, now with a fantastic rhythm section behind him in Roger Innis on bass and Miri Miettinen on drums. It’s great to see him awarded another high profile support slot, joining King King on their current UK tour, including a Lemon Tree date on Sunday 22 March.

So far, what’s arranged in Aberdeen for 2015?

We’re bringing The Stevie Nimmo Trio up on Sunday 3 May, Virgil and the Accelerators on Friday 15 May, Laurence Jones on Monday 22 June and we’re hoping Philip Sayce will reschedule his cancelled show from last November. For the Stevie Nimmo Trio we’re trying something different. Since it falls on May Day weekend we’ve made it an afternoon gig with doors opening at 1500.

‘After their successful gig in September we’ll be bringing the Nimmo Brothers back later in the year.

If money, venue and availability were no object, who would you bring to Aberdeen for blues lovers to see?

We’re huge fans of Gary Clark Jr and Warren Haynes and would love to take them to The Granite City. Warren Haynes is the hardest working man in music and we’d love to see him play Aberdeen whether with his band Gov’t Mule or solo.

There are perennial complaints that Aberdeen is missed out when artists of all genres tour the UK. Blues Rock Aberdeen and Almost Blue promotions are putting admirable effort and energy into trying to put that right.

The least they deserve is your support for their creditable hard work.


Blues Rock Aberdeen gigs 2015

03 May             The Tunnels       The Stevie Nimmo Trio (afternoon show 1500)
15 May              The Tunnels       Virgil and the Accelerators
22 June            The Tunnels       Laurence Jones

Dec 112014

Gordon Duthie and Kintore Pictish stone – Credit: Duncan Harley.

By Duncan Harley.

With the release of his third album Thran, North East singer/songwriter/musician Gordon Duthie reflects on the 74 year old event in which his great grandfather’s fishing vessel, Fraserburgh registered Steam Drifter SS Duthies was sunk in Montrose Harbour by the young men of the Luftwaffe.

Alongside titles such as Whisky Disco and Feel Loon did a Wildpoepen, Gordon’s tribute to Sandhaven built FR106 Duthies is just one of ten provocative numbers in this new offering.

A year in the making, Thran represents a significant shift from the themes of sadness and isolation expressed in previous albums.

Westhill based and with roots in both Fraserburgh and Kintore, Gordon is well placed to comment on all things North East. With previous albums Shire and City and Multimedia Monster under his belt, this new album uncovers a different side of the man.

“My granny always accused me of being thran,” says Gordon.

“but how else can I be and what else can I write about? I can’t see any point in writing about the likes of San Francisco – what do I know about the city?  – surely it must be better to write about where you know and belong.”

The explicit theme in this album is a politically charged nostalgia for simpler times. Moral values, the global culture of consumerism and the letting go of things come under scrutiny.

In Invisible Lines Gordon tackles the theme of poverty; Feel Loon refers to a place where “The only reality in this world is a place where no phone signal exists,” and concludes with the hopeful note that one day “You will open your mouth instead of your thumb.”

Mixed and Mastered by Thaddeus Moore of Sprout City Studios and combining voice, drum and pounding bass lines in an up tempo mix of styles, this is an album not to be missed.

For a man who started off his musical career as a four year old drummer on a temperance march Gordon Duthie has indeed come a long way.

Thran is available from most digital music stores and also direct from Gordon at www.gordonduthie.com

First published in the December 2014 edition of Aberdeen Leopard – All rights reserved ©

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Dec 052014


Rob and Sarah Skinner have taken Scotland to their hearts following their triumph at the 2013 Orkney Blues Festival and their Summer 2014 Scottish tour. They always declare that they don’t want to return to the Sussex after touring here, and audiences are reluctant to let them go. One day, they will return for good to help lay the foundations for Our Big Community Arts Thing.

Nearing the end of their second tour of the country in 2014, the Skinners again held court at The Blue Lamp, where their Live In Aberdeen CD was recorded in July.

Whilst their genre-defying set and ability to add fire and spice to any musical gathering would have seen them at home at the Jazz Club in the big bar downstairs, the intimate setting of the upstairs bar was ideal.

Those familiar with their set, from a previous show or the Live In Aberdeen recording, were in for few surprises. Confusing the genre purists, for whom a sax in a country band is the work of Satan or for whom a drum kit draws a moustache on folk music’s Mona Lisa, is almost a hobby for the Skinners.

Blues, both Brown’s Ferry and Idabel see those bases covered, takes on John Prine and Ryan Adams see the country and folk appetites sated and the Skinners’ original songs telling of monochrome dreams, over-indulgence in loopy juice and hangovers, admirably unclassifiable, are warmly appreciated. Thankfully, there was no reprise of The Portsoy Tom Jones Moment of the evening before, where garments were thrown onstage. They’re a rum lot in Banffshire. I blame the rum.

The Lampie atmosphere was much more akin to that of a house concert, home ground for Rob and Sarah, with constant cheery badinage between Skinners and audience, but the music was still serious and the duo’s performance as focussed as if they were on the Cropredy bill. Their versatility is admirable, wholly professional and heart-warming. Engaging with audiences whilst taking obvious enjoyment in their art is a skill not always easily-learned.

Martin Raitt of Almost Blue Promotions has already re-booked the duo to play at Lampie in August next year and new friends they made in Gallowgate are already talking about house concerts and other promotions around that date.

The Skinners’ creative switches are never set to ‘off’ and new material is coming together, inspired by the events, troubles, joys and bizarre happenings that itinerant musicians bear and enjoy.

It’s good that they share the good times with us.






Nov 172014

Laura Macdonald PicBy Rob Adams.

Scottish Saxophonist Laura Macdonald and New York pianist David Berkman mark the release of their new Duets album with a EFG London Jazz Festival launch and a series of Scottish gigs including the Blue Lamp in Aberdeen on Thursday, November 20.

The two musicians, who have worked together in various line-ups since appearing in a band Macdonald formed for an Edinburgh Jazz Festival concert a few years ago, first played as a duo when they were asked to fill an hour’s slot in the festival’s programme at five minutes’ notice.

They had more preparation this time and exchanged emails with ideas and suggestions until they settled on a selection of romantic standards, including It Could Happen to You and My Romance.

The album was recorded, with trumpeter Ryan Quigley producing, at Gorbals Sound in Glasgow, where the studio engineers, who are used to rock musicians working at a more leisurely pace, were surprised that Macdonald and Berkman could record an album in one day.

“We spent some time sorting out microphone positions,” says Macdonald.

“Once we started playing, though, it was like we were playing to an audience. The guys in the studio were amazed. But that was definitely the way to work for us because things happened spontaneously in the music – the sort of things that normally happen on a gig and disappear into the ether – and we were able to capture them. We had a break between tunes but they were all recorded in one take.”

David Berkman photoMacdonald has previously released two albums of her own and one with the group she co-leads with Swedish drummer Martina Almgren as well as working extensively with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, saxophonist Donny McAslin and drummer Tom Bancroft.

She hopes that the new album will lead to further performances with Berkman, possibly involving a trip to the U.S. to play on his home territory.

“I always enjoy working with David,” she says.

“He has this great sense of jazz history in his playing, having worked with so many people including Sonny Stitt and Tom Harrell, and like me, he likes to know what a song is about before he plays it. The standards on the album have all been played so many times before but working with someone like David you hear new ways of playing them every time.”

Oct 282014

Mark Ayling 1 Acoustic artist Mark Ayling released his second album, ‘Out Of Step, Out Of Time’ this week, following on from his 2011 album ‘Memories and Ghosts’.

The Turriff-based singer-songwriter played with Justin Sullivan (New Model Army), Robb Johnson and Tracey Curtis at the 2011 ‘Raise Your Banners’ Festival and with many other fine musicians at various gigs throughout the past three years.

A lifelong drummer, with lyrics that range from personal to political, he has branched out to play acoustic guitar, taking the energy of punk and rock music to make his own style.

He will be embarking on a UK tour next month to promote the album.

The CD album will be available from http://www.markayling.net/, Four Dogs Music, Ethical Wares and Amazon. A download will also be available from iTunes and Amazon.

Oct 062014

Eliza and the bearWith thanks to Chuff Media.

London quintet Eliza and the Bear appear at The Lemon Tree on Thurs October 9.
Mixing the euphoric hooks of Imagine Dragons and the off kilter energy of Crystal Fighters and Grouplove, Eliza and the Bear burst onto the scene at the end of 2013 winning a legion of fans supporting Twin Atlantic and Paramore.

Their dizzying live performances have helped them build a fanatical fanbase.

This Autumn the band take their exuberant live set on the road for a twenty-date headline UK tour, culminating with one of their biggest headline shows to date at Islington’s O2 Academy on October 16th.

The band released their new EP ‘Light It Up’ on 3rd August via Mi Familia Music. Their most infectious offering to date, the elevating title track from the EP is guaranteed to set the radio airwaves ablaze this season, ladened with melodic charm and dazzling sing-a-long vocals.

‘Light It Up’ follows Eliza and the Bear’s critically lauded singles ‘It Gets Cold’ (Zane Lowe’s Radio 1 Hottest Record In The World and soundtrack to the BBC’s Sochi Winter Olympics coverage), ‘Brother’s Boat’ (championed by Fearne Cotton on Radio 1) and ‘Friends’ (which provides the backing for the Bulmers Cider summer advert).

“Light it up is about making a positive change to your way of life and when times get rough, doing something about it.” – James Kellegher

Light It Up EP Track Listing:

Light It Up
Let Us Be Young
It Gets Cold (Acoustic)

Elisa and the Bear play the following dates on their headline UK tour:

October 6th              Manchester, The Ruby Lounge
October 7th              Edinburgh, The Electric Circus
October 8th              Glasgow, King Tuts
October 9th          Aberdeen, Lemon Tree
October 10th            Dundee, Buskers
October 11th            Middlesbrough, Twisterella Festival
October 12th            Leeds, The Cockpit 2
October 14th            Birmingham O2 Academy
October 15th            Leicester, The Scholars Bar
October 16th            London, Islington O2 Academy



Oct 032014

Spear of Destiny is going to be in Aberdeen at The Moorings venue next Saturday, 11th of October.

SpeardestinypicKirk Brandon has now been leading SPEAR OF DESTINY for over 30 years. 2014 sees the release of the band’s 13th studio album ’31’ (Thirty-One).

These brand new recordings will be released on vinyl, CD and digital via kirkbrandon.com, Code7 Distribution and The Orchard Digital Platform.

To coincide with the new album’s release on September 15th, an extensive UK tour commenced on September 18th and concludes on October 19th.

Fresh from being described by NME.com as a Brilliant 80s Band, Kirk appeared on Jools Holland’s BBC Radio 2 show on Monday 22nd September where he played three of his favourite tracks, premiering two tracks from ’31′ and joining Jools’s band to cover a very special song.

Jools accurately described ’31’ (Thirty-One) as ‘possibly [Spear of Destiny’s] best album in 20 years’.