All posts by oliver@sxsc.org

Banjo on my Knee out now!

It’s the perfect Xmas gift for anyone interested in music, travel and Americana. Available from Amazon, or any bookshop, or direct from me.

Part travelogue, part guide book, part music memoir but mainly observational nonsense – Banjo On My Knee shows you how to survive a three-week journey through the music of America’s South and avoid some of the pitfalls of US travel.

jeffrey foucault at the Railway, April 1

In two decades on the road Jeffrey Foucault has become one of the most distinctive voices in American music, refining a sound instantly recognizable for its simplicity and emotional power. He’s built a brick-and-mortar international touring career of multiple studio albums, countless miles, and general critical acclaim, lauded for “Stark, literate songs that are as wide open as the landscape of his native Midwest” (The New Yorker), and described as “Quietly brilliant” (Irish Times).

In April 2020 Jeffrey Foucault will tour the United Kingdom in support of BLOOD BROTHERS (Blueblade Records, 2018) his sixth collection of original songs, with his longtime drummer and tour partner Billy Conway (Morphine) on drums. Ry Cavanaugh (Session Americana) opens the tour.

Since 2013 Foucault and Conway have toured relentlessly together, refining a primal, stripped-down stage show: two men, two chairs; a beat-up Gibson J-45 and an electric guitar tuned low and played through a 5-watt amp; a suitcase kick drum, a low-boy cymbal, a snare drum. The pair plays only what they can carry into the club alone in one trip, and cover all the territory from blues and country, to rock ‘n’ roll and folk, with a laconic ferocity and timeless cool. Their dynamic partnership – as nimble as it is sonically powerful – is the bedrock on which BLOOD BROTHERS builds its nuanced and poignant lament.

THE NEW YORK TIMES:?“Sometimes his songs run right up to the edge of the grandiose, and hold still, and that’s when he’s best… Close to perfection.”

UNCUT MAGAZINE (UK): “The music of Wisconsin native Foucault is the kind so many aspire to but never attain: beat-up troubadour folk whittled to dolorous perfection…”

Jerry Leger, April 26 at the Railway

Jerry Leger has a thing for ghosts. The Toronto singer/songwriter confirmed it a couple of years ago when he went on a personal journey to explore many of Ontario’s largely unknown ghost towns, having been inspired by the writings of historian Ron Brown. Leger has immortalized one of those towns, Burchell Lake, on his new album Time Out For Tomorrow, containing 10 portraits of the impermanence of life, love, or simply catching a glimpse of a shooting star.

Yet, other ghosts reside much deeper in Leger’s songs. Whether they’re the voices of Roy Orbison, Lou Reed, Gene Clark, Rick Danko or Ronnie Lane, they naturally complement the universal truths at the core of Jerry Leger’s music, along with his undying faith in rock ‘n roll as a way for all people to find common ground.

Time Out For Tomorrow continues Leger’s run of consistently high output and displays the finely honed artistic vision that has been evident since 2005 when, at age 19, he released the first of nine studio albums, along with three more with his side projects The Del-Fi’s and The Bop-Fi’s. It’s added up to a body of work that was recently celebrated with the European-only compilation Too Broke To Die, aimed at Leger’s growing fan base in Britain and the EU.

Most of those listeners didn’t discover Leger until his 2014 album Early Riser, his first with Michael Timmins of Cowboy Junkies handling production duties, as well as the first to be released on the Junkies’ label, Latent Recordings. The combination of Timmins’ capture-the-moment production aesthetic and the Rolling Thunder-esque chemistry of Leger’s longtime band The Situation (plus a few special guests) now appears unbeatable. And although Time Out For Tomorrow may not be as expansive as Leger’s previous Timmins-produced effort, the acclaimed 2017 double album Nonsense And Heartache, its more concentrated dose of everything Leger does best is just as potent.

“I got the name for the album from an early ‘60s dime store collection of science fiction short stories a friend gave me,” he explains. “Everything around me seems like science fiction these days, and the phrase ‘Time Out For Tomorrow’ fit these songs and my mood in one way or another.”

In highlighting some of the album’s key moments, Leger points to the opening track “Canvas Of Gold,” on which he sings, “Everything was almost decided when we were young, you’ll stay poor like your family before and I’ll keep hustling.” It’s a reference to Toronto’s well-known gentrification projects in recent years that have put tremendous pressure on the city’s artistic communities. Jerry adds, “Close to where I live there’s a condo development starting at $400,000 called ‘The Poet.’ I don’t know too many poets who can afford that. I’m living in a time that is harder and harder to do what I at this point involuntarily do. What I have to do.”

He also takes aim at tensions stoked by hate groups on the inspiring “That Ain’t Here,” another seemingly endless battle in which artists have been forced to engage. However, the mood on Time Out For Tomorrow often abruptly shifts to showing off Leger’s genuine love of early rock ‘n roll, as evidenced by the gripping ballad “Read Between The Lines.”

“I originally wrote that one for The Del Fi’s, but many people I played it for convinced me to keep it for myself, so I did,” he says. “It has a great energy and feel, and I think this album more than any of the others really succeeded on getting the perfect feel for each tune. It’s hard to do; usually the songs come across better live, but I think with this record we managed to capture that spirit.”

In keeping with his love of all things vintage, Leger is a voracious vinyl collector and notes that when recording Time Out For Tomorrow, the two albums he was listening to most often were Lou Reed’s Coney Island Baby, and Nick Lowe’s The Impossible Bird. He says their influence had more to do with the overall sound he wanted to project rather than any specific musical or lyrical content.

“Coney Island Baby was the first solo Lou Reed record I heard, probably around age 14, and I’ve always loved it,” he says. “The production just glides along and really puts the focus on the words. My song ‘Justine’ on this record benefited from that the most.

“I got into Nick Lowe through Elvis Costello, and with The Impossible Bird, there’s a real brightness to that album—the sound just makes me feel good when I hear it. It’s the same feeling as when I throw on an old Everly Brothers record like ‘Cathy’s Clown.’ It gets me out of a depression every time, even though it has depressing lyrics! I wanted Time Out For Tomorrow to have that same kind of open arms sound to it while still presenting lyrics about the human condition for better or worse. I think my song ‘I Would’ is one Nick Lowe might dig.”

Indeed, other songwriters of Lowe’s caliber, such as Ron Sexsmith, and outlets such as Rolling Stone, PopMatters and the Toronto Star have sung Leger’s praises. He’s also shared stages with The Sadies, Justin Townes Earle, Deer Tick, Dawes, and others, along with making his debut at Holland’s Take Root Festival in 2018 alongside Neko Case, Kurt Vile, Father John Misty, Shakey Graves, and Alejandro Escovedo.

Canada may be known more these days for punching above its weight in the global pop music field, but its long and storied tradition of singer/songwriters refuses to die. Jerry Leger is carrying that torch, and if there’s any further proof needed that he’s at the vanguard, just listen to Time Out For Tomorrow.

William The Conqueror, NOVEMBER 22

Presented in association with The Railway Inn

Special guest Ags Connolly

William the Conqueror’s new album Bleeding on the Soundtrack is out now on Loose. Produced by Ethan Johns (Kings of Leon, White Denim, Laura Marling) at Peter Gabriel’s iconic Real World Studios, it is the second instalment of William’s story following on from debut album, Proud Disturber of the Peace, released in 2017 to widespread critical acclaim.

The indie-rock three piece channel classic blues and roots rock through a grunge/indie filter, with diverse influences including The Doors, Pearl Jam and The Lemonheads. Praised for their grit and authenticity by The Guardian and NPR’s Ann Powers, they signed to Loose, joining a roster that includes Courtney Marie Andrews, Israel Nash, The Handsome Family and Treetop Flyers. Their live performances have drawn wildly enthusiastic comparisons to Kings of Leon, Nirvana, Buffalo Tom and The Marshall Tucker Band.

“there are few more heartfelt and soul-baring writers in any medium today” Mojo ????”Fantastic second album” Americana UK 9/10“strikes a rich vein of gold” Culturefly ????UNCUT 8/10

NATIVE HARROW plus Provincials, Jan 24, Swiss Cottage

We’ve been very lucky to secure an appearance by the Loose label’s hottest new band. Support comes from the Itchen Valley’s finest: Provincials, featuring Seb Hunter and Polly from Polly and the Billets Doux.

Native Harrow: Devin Tuel may consider herself to be an artist meant for a different time, but she now finds herself inhabiting her own true place. The singer-songwriter is at home in Upstate NY reflecting on her third album, Happier Now,released under her nom de plume, Native Harrow, as well as the difficult sojourn the former ballerina and classically trained singer has had to traverse to become the writer and performer she was meant to be. “This record is about becoming your own advocate. Realizing that maybe you are different in several or a myriad of ways and that that is okay. And further, it is about me becoming a grown woman,” Tuel says.

After nearly two decades of rigorous training in ballet, theatre, and voice, Tuel needed to break out of the oppressive rules of academia and find her natural voice, write from her heart, and figure out what kind of performer she truly was rather than the one she was being molded into from the age of 3. “I spent my early twenties playing every venue in Greenwich Village, recording demos in my friends kitchen, and making lattes. I felt very alive then. I was on my own living in my own little studio, staying up all night writing; the dream I had of being a bohemian New York City artist was unfolding. I wanted to be Patti Smith. I was also heartbroken, poor, and had no idea what I was getting myself into. My twenties, as I think it goes for most, were all about getting up, getting knocked down, and learning to keep going. I never gave up and I think if I told 20 year old me how things looked 9 years later she’d be so excited”.

Happier Now (out April 12 on Different Time Records), is a set of nine songs recorded and mixed by Alex Hall (JD McPherson, The Cactus Blossoms, Pokey LaFarge) at Chicago’s Reliable Recorders. The album was co-produced by Hall, Tuel, and her bandmate, multi-instrumentalist Stephen Harms.

Native Harrow cuts out clear and vibrant narratives on fear, love, the open road, ill-fated relationships, and coping with the state of the world. “I wanted to share that I made it out of my own thunderstorm. I had experienced the high peaks and very low valleys of my twenties. I saw more of the world on my own, got through challenges, reveled in true moments of triumph… but all the while the world around me was growing louder, wilder, and scarier. Music for me is a place to be soft. This album was my place to feel it all.”   

Happier Now’s nine songs were written during three back-to-back tours across North America supporting the band’s second album, Sorores. The album was recorded in just three days in March 2018 during what Tuel jokingly calls “downtime” in the middle of the grueling 108 date tour. Tuel approached the sessions like a musicians’ workshop, each morning beginning with the songwriter presenting her collaborators with the day’s material. The trio rehearsed and documented each song live on the floor, tracking as a band through each take. No click tracks, scratch tracks, or even headphones; just three musicians in a small room, captured with Hall’s collection of vintage mics and some subtle retro production techniques. Overdubs, including vocal harmonies, B3 organ, Rhodes, and the rare lead guitar were added to decorate these live performances.  The creative energy of the tightly-knit sessions spilled over into Tuel’s songwriting as well – she skipped lunch on the third and final day of recording to pen the road-weary “Hard To Take”. Four days after arriving in Chicago, Native Harrow was back on the road and Happier Now was complete.

Happier Now oscillates between feeling the sting of uncertainty (“Can’t Go on Like This”), the beauty of California (“Blue Canyon”) and the ache for lavish stability (“Way to Light”). You could say Tuel wears her heart proudly on her sleeve, but that’d be underplaying the exact gravity of her stories. Each starlit image is framed within her warm, enveloping vocals and the careful, profound considerations of Harms’ musicianship. Start to finish, the new record pours forth from her very bones, and you get the overwhelming sense she has never been more daring and honest than right now.

http://www.wegottickets.com/event/485315

Kacy and Clayton at the Railway, February 4

Full band show with special guests.

A recent highlight in Clayton Linthicum’s agricultural lifestyle in rural Saskatchewan was when he drove his truck into a cow near his parents’ ranch. This may or may not have been due to stress induced by his phobia of grasshoppers, but either way, it’s a curious background for a twenty-year old to become steeped in the legacy of Shirley Collins, The Watersons and Davey Graham. On a visit to London in early 2015, Clayton made a bee-line for Cecil Sharp House and spent a day researching English folk tradition.

His 18 year old second cousin, Kacy Anderson, has already been christened “the new Sandy Denny”, but, in contrast to many such claims made for singers in the past, this time it really is justified. The purity of her voice and the beauty of the songs the cousins create together, build on, rather than replicate the tradition of early Fairport that they love so much – but in their own unique fashion. The intricate guitar work and the bold and unexpected time changes in the title track make the song the perfect lead-in to an enormously satisfying and organic album.

Kacy and Clayton grew up six miles apart from each other in the Wood Mountain Hills, a ranching district of southern Saskatchewan. Their great-grandparents established their ranch after moving from South Dakota around 1911. When Clayton’s parents went away on holiday when he was aged just ten, he spent a week learning rhythm guitar techniques from his great Uncle Carl. Kacy and Clayton had been hanging out since they were small children but it was around 2009 that they started playing gigs at the local Wood Mountain bar. The following summer they played a few Saskatchewan festivals and club shows. In 2011 the country cover band Clayton was in played a cabaret in Chaplin, SK and it was there that he met the much older Ryan Boldt. “We bonded instantly over the music of Jean Ritchie, Shirley Collins, and Mississippi John Hurt,” says Clayton. “The following week, Kacy and I went to visit Ryan at his house in the town of Mortlach.” Thus began the friendship and collaboration that Kacy and Clayton have with Ryan Boldt and The Deep Dark Woods.

Jesse Malin at the Railway, March 12

Full band show plus special guest Don Dilego.

Jesse Malin — who the London Times says “writes vivid songs with killer tunes and sings them with scary conviction” — and Lucinda Williams — the southern troubadour once named “America’s best songwriter” by Time magazine — first met in the early 2000s at a jazz club in NYC’s West Village. In a joint 2017 Rolling Stone interview, the two discussed their “shared love of miscreants, misfits, the misunderstood and the mysteries of everyday lives binds them across the Mason-Dixon line.”
“From the early frontier days of hardcore in New York to all the punk rock and singer/songwriter touring,” says Malin, “it’s all been about survival and reinvention. I wanted to make an open-sounding record with the space to tell these stories. I like to write about characters and people I meet along the way. The dreamers, schemers, hustlers, romantics, lovers, leavers and believers.” Many of the dreamers, schemers and so on from Jesse’s own life contribute to Sunset Kids, his new album of highly personal songs being released August 30 on Wicked Cool Records.

ZANDER out now!

Oliver Gray’s day job is writing school text books and non-fiction items, but his hobby is promoting live shows by visiting roots artists from the US and Canada. When contemplating his first foray into fiction, he was advised to “write about what you know about”. It’s therefore no surprise that “Zander” is set in the world of small-time music promotion.

When American roots musician Corey Zander sets out on his first UK tour, things start badly and rapidly get worse. Not even his drug-strewn rock and roll past could prepare him for the violence of his reception in provincial England.

We hope you will enjoy it.

BUY NOW FROM AMAZON! Or download the Kindle version.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Zander-Oliver-Gray/dp/1897609086

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Almost all our events are at the Railway, Winchester, which has a simple new ticket selling system. Go to www.railwayinn.pub and head for the listings. Tickets for Swiss Cottage shows are available from the Swiss Cottage Sessions page of this website.