Curtis Eller's American Circus

I love small venues, and one of my favourites locally is the Old Theatre Royal in Bath – very atmospheric with wonderful acoustics.  I always try to get along to a couple of gigs during their annual fringe@theOTR fortnight during the City’s Fringe Festival, because they often unearth bands you don’t normally see.  This year they managed to get Curtis Eller’s American Circus all the way from North Carolina as part of their European Tour promoting the new album A Poison Melody

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nathaniel rateliff & the nightsweats

There’s always a touch of deja vu about going to gigs when you get to my age, particularly when seeing a band again that you first saw many years ago. But it’s unusual when a set from a new band revives memories of another gig from fifty years ago. Such was the case with Nathaniel Rateliff & the Nightsweats at the O2 Academy in Bristol last night.

Their latest album, Tearing at the Seams, featured high in my 2018 Album of the Year review, so we have been looking forward to this gig, and they did not disappoint.  The album, on the Stax label, brought back memories of bands from the sixties who graced this fabulous brand, and that sound was here in spades, perhaps with a hint of Van Morrison in places.  Seeing all eight of them on stage complete with horn section and a genuine vintage Hammond, rotating speaker box and all, recalled the UK soul bands that made a brief appearance during the mid-sixties – I recall one from Bristol who I think were called the West Coast Showband that we saw around the area at small venues.

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My selection for Album of the Year 2018 was not, perhaps, chosen from the greatest year for new music in recent times.   In fact I seemed to spend the first half of the year catching-up on some 2017 albums that, somehow, passed me by.  Maybe this was due to our trip to the other side of the world to see our Grandkids in Australia, and their Mum & Dad of course, which spanned November last year into February this year, meaning that I missed my usual year-end trawl of the CD racks here.

Never mind, I thought, I’ll be in Australia’s largest City, so I can do it there – somehow forgetting previous experiences.  Sydney is an anachronism.  It is really modern and vibrant on the surface, and very easy to get around either by Ferry or Bus.  The bus drivers often have their own beatbox playing as they travel along, the only problem being their selections seem to be totally stuck in the ‘seventies and ‘eighties.  The record shops are similar – rack after rack stuffed with multiple copies of classic albums, but far less that’s current.  Not that it’s a bad era to hear, you just yearn for an up to date surprise from time to time. Continue Reading

When it came to reviewing my Album of the Year 2017 , I concluded that it has been an average year overall for the music industry.  No blockbuster albums (unless you count the ginger-haired phenomenon with the tiny guitar, of which more later), no major new artists, just a year of business as usual in the mainstream.  Which has meant more time to explore the margins, and to unearth some little gems from their hiding places.

For those of you new to this, the 55th, annual wander through my contemporary musical experiences, I have selected a personal album of the year ever since I started buying vinyl in the early 1960s.  For the featured albums, the self-imposed criteria are that I must have a copy in my collection that has been purchased during the year, the album’s UK release date has to be in the year being reviewed, and the list can contain no compilations or live albums.  Other than that, it’s pretty-much open-house.   During the ‘seventies, this singular personal choice evolved into a small-circulation printed newsletter on some of the year’s releases for selected friends, including a top-three, through a wider-circulation email in the ‘nineties that contained a top ten, to ultimately, in 2006, this annual blog.    Continue Reading

Album of the Year 2016

My New Year’s Resolution for 2017, after a second virtually blogless year, will be to return to writing for pleasure more regularly – a task made easier by the departure from our lives of the near two-year long threat of someone building a shed at the bottom of our garden – something that will be covered soon, but not in this blog.  Because the subject matter here is far more pleasurable – my Album of the Year 2016

For my new readers’ benefit, I have selected a personal album of the year ever since I started buying vinyl in the early 1960s.  During the ‘seventies, this singular personal choice evolved into a small-circulation printed newsletter for selected friends, through a wider-circulation email in the ‘nineties that contained a top ten, to ultimately, in 2008, this annual blog on my musical experiences throughout the year.   For the featured albums, the criteria I use are that I must have a copy in my collection that has been purchased during the year, the album’s UK release date has to be in the year being reviewed, and the list can contain no compilations or live albums.  Other than that, it’s pretty-much open-house. Continue Reading