Archive for the ‘Folk’ Category

Scott Matthews - Savoy Theatre, 11 May, 2009

May 13th, 2009

Scott Matthews Scott was opening for Tori Amos, and as with alot of openers, you dont expect much, and hope that the main act will be on soon. But I found myself smiling when Scott started up…

As someone who is quite familiar with Jeff Buckley’s live music, I was quite suprised the amount of simularities between Scott and Jeff. From the moment Scott opened his mouth, you could almost hear bits of Jeffs lower register and turn of melody calling out to you, combined with his dreamy guitar style and Jeff-like use of reverb. Thankfully this wasnt some poor imitation - Scott clearly defined himself as his own voice with his own style music, and with songwriting simple and emotive. True his own unique sound, as other folk stylists like Laura Marling, Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), even a solo Ray Lamontagne, to name a few.

As I was never fortunate enough to see Jeff live, I’m thankful to have experienced Scott. Surely one the best openers I’ve ever heard… I’ll definately be watching his career develop.

Heres some samples… He’s got a 2nd album coming out later this month called ‘Elsewhere’ - go buy it - I will be!


Laura Marling - Hoxton Bar and Kitchen, 30 March 2009

April 7th, 2009

picture by luptonn -

I’ve reviewed Noah and the Whale already, but I must say I’ve been looking forward to seeing an ex member, Laura Marling more, simply because of her stunning debut album ‘Alas I Cannot Swim‘, which showed maturity and songwriting prowess well beyond her 19 years.

I went with a few friends who are fans, and my unsuspecting girlfriend, who was not yet aware of Laura Marling’s music. Hoxton Bar and Kitchen itself is a trendy place off Hoxton Square, which served quite a tasty selection of food and beer. The performance area itself was a smallish concrete room, which soon became totally packed out to 300 enthusiastic fans.

Unfortunately, even with 2-3 sound engineers chipping in it soon became apparent we were in for a long night, with each act arriving on stage later and later. First was Sixtoes, a group of guys with an acoustic Anthony and the Johnsons kind of sound, who were quite pleasant to listen to. Then came the longeur of the night - Polly Scattergood. Its been along time since I’ve suffered through such a pretentious, contrived tripe (even at the level of an opener). From the laminated setlist, bad song lyrics, and a total lack of genuineness in performance. I read somewhere a review calling her ‘the new Tori Amos’. As an avid Tori fan, all I can say is no… just… No.

Laura finally made it on stage at 11:15, (after it took 45 minutes to set up 4 or 5 microphones in an acoustic setting) and it became clear that the wait was well worth it. In contrast to Polly, Laura’s clever, honest and well written songs quenched my thirsty ears - her execution was simply honest and beautiful. She played many non album tracks, perhaps signalling that a new album may be on the way soon, either way, she was utterly captivating, holding the entire audience in awe. She had Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons performing with her, and they complimented each other really well.

If Laura continues to make music like this for the rest of her career, she’s going to be huge. I’m looking forward to her returning. Heres a few samples from the night:
Laura Marling - My Manic And I.mp3
Laura Marling - Rebecca.mp3
Laura Marling - Oh Mama How Far Ive Come.mp3
Laura Marling - Ramblin Man.mp3

heres a few cool reviews:

the photo above is from Luptonn’s flickr: (many thanks to him!)

Priscilla Ahn - Barbican, 16 February, 2009

March 8th, 2009

Priscilla Ahn Priscilla Ahn opened for Ray Lamontagne, and is obviously a emerging artist. I enjoyed her set, even though her loop machine was abit glitchy. Her songs were quirky, and her pure voice at times was reminiscent of Hope Sandoval, the ex-singer of Mazzy Star.

I was really excited to hear Ray after hearing Priscilla’s solid set, but I have to say, I think I actually enjoyed Priscilla more that night. She certainly made more of an effort with the audience, even coming out the front to meet and greet any curious fans out there. I probably should have had the courage to go up to her and tell her I enjoyed her set… Maybe next time!

heres her opening track:

Priscilla Ahn - Dream.mp3

Ray Lamontagne - Barbican, 16 February, 2009

March 8th, 2009

Ray Lamontagne

Its no secret that I like the honesty and simplicity of folk, but I have never really been a fan of Ray Lamontagne, despite the repeated testamony of a few of my friends to his genius. Never the less, I gave his latest album, ‘Gossip In The Grain’ another spin recently, as I knew he was touring through London and tickets were still available. Whether it was my mood at the time, or perhaps my friends were right, I could finally see some of the diamonds in the rough that they were talking about. I could hear the potential that he might have on stage, and so I booked 2 of the last few tickets available for his 2nd night at the Barbican.

Ray came on stage with his band, and suprisingly stood well to the right - as if making a point that he was part of the band, rather than the soloist. As a band, they sounded very tight and disciplined - it was quite clear that that each of the players was a master of their own instrument. Unfortunately, the more I listened to the show, the less convinced I was of them as a total ensemble. Its hard to put a finger on, but it honestly felt like they were going through the motions, and the music lacked the vibrancy and energy you’d expect of people who love what they do.

Dont get me wrong -the music itself good, and well put together, just the execution was lacking. I got the feeling that Sony obviously discovered Ray as a new, talented songwriter, signed him, and ‘invented’ something marketable for the folk/country niche, then put a band behind him. I’m sure this is common practice, but it seemed abit too contrived in this case. For the few tracks the band was off stage, it was evident that Ray was a solo artist to be reckoned with - he lit up and shone - with only his voice and acoustic guitar.

This probably wasnt helped by the peculiar lighting choice of fading to black between each song, and the fact that Ray seemed extremely shy (or disinterested), and reluctant to engage with the audience. As you’d expect this left most people in the auditorium feeling abit detached from the performance (Apparently the night before, people even started yelling out ‘Talk to us ray!’). As such, the most we got from Ray was 3 or 4 words after his final encore - ‘See you next time’ or something.

I’m sure many avid Ray fans will disagree strongly with my view, but all I have to compare with is the many wonderful performances I saw last year, and unfortunately, this one didnt measure up. I hope Ray tours again, by himself - I’d definately pay to see that!

heres a few samples :

Ray Lamontagne - I Still Care For You.mp3

Ray Lamontagne - Home.mp3

Ray Lamontagne - Burn.mp3

Ray Lamontagne - Jolene.mp3

Leonard Cohen - The O2, 14 November, 2008

November 19th, 2008

Leonard Cohen @ The O2, photo by jules2view on flickr

Leonard Cohen. What can I say about seeing him in concert? It was like watching a tribute to his legendary life - with the man himself performing. The audience were incredibly appreciative, giving many standing ovations, almost thanking him for what his music had meant to them over the years.

His Players were all masters of several instruments, and were a pleasure to listen to in both solo and ensemble, while the man with the golden voice crooned like someone out of the ’50s. What was amazing, was for an old fellow, who hadnt toured in 14 years, he sounded remarkably good. I’ve always considered Leonard Cohen to be a Poet first and a Musician second, as his lyrics are truly beautiful, but having now seen him live, I can see him in a new light. He has a soulful musicality in performance that is much more evident than in his recordings (yes, I know - he sounds great on tape - but recordings dont always tell the truth).

He played 2 sets, totalling around 3 hours, including his early classics, to many of the more modern tracks. ‘Hallelujah’ made an unexpected entry early in the second set, and while it was hard not to hear Jeff Buckley’s voice singing along, once he got into it, I realized that his interpretation was his own, and hell - he WROTE the song - he knows how it should go (I could almost hear an additional gospel choir joining in on his choruses).

I’m glad I went, as I think the chances of seeing him again are fairly low. He might be fighting fit now, but even Leonard can agree that time is surely not on his side. Even so, even a young fan like myself can be grateful for how he nourished my early musical experiences. So Leonard - Thanks for the music. May you keep playing for as long as you are happy doing so.

Here are some tracks:
Leonard Cohen - In My Secret Life.mp3
Leonard Cohen - Chelsea Hotel #2.mp3
Leonard Cohen - Tower of Song.mp3
Leonard Cohen - A Thousand Kisses Deep.mp3
Leonard Cohen - Famous Blue Raincoat.mp3

here are some flickr photos: (including the one above)

Luka Bloom - Bush Hall, 23 October, 2008

October 26th, 2008

I managed to catch Luka Bloom on stage at Bush Hall, Shepherds Bush last week for the start of his tour promoting his new record Eleven Songs. While I was looking forward to hearing some of his new stuff, as I’d enjoyed much of his early 90’s albums, I was looking forward to hearing some old stuff too… Sometimes, the words that come out of Luka Bloom’s mouth sound like a rolecall of cliche’s - but thats kinda the pure nature of his songwriting - its simple, and direct. His delivery is always so believable, they dont stick out, and you’d almost think he coined the phrases in the first place.

Luka is one of those people who has a true - dare I now use a cliche - lust for life, and a yearning to experience all the world has to offer, and his music reflects it - he sings of people and places from around the globe. In performance, too, he plays with energy and life, and its quite infectious - Even Bush Halls rather civilized audience were buzzing early on, and became more raucous as the night continued.

I had the strange experience of introducing Luka Bloom to an irish mate of mine back in Australia. Which, is odd not only for the fact that he hadn’t heard of him, but also because my friend was very much in the same kinda place as Luka Bloom, as someone who was a real traveller, and craved a good craic. He’s since found the love of his life, and they’ve recently married, back in Ireland. So, I’d like to dedicate ‘You Couldn’t Have Come at a Better Time’ to Steve and Caroline, and let them know we think of them still. Enjoy!

Photo (removed) from:

Luka Bloom - Tribe.mp3
Luka Bloom - Dreams In America.mp3
Luka Bloom - Everyman.mp3
Luka Bloom - Couldnt Have Come At A Better Time.mp3

Bon Iver - Myspace Transmissions EP

September 23rd, 2008

Bon Iver - Myspace Transmissions EPOk, so I’ve gone abit Bon Iver mad lately, but for those of you curious, you can download a free EP from Myspace:

myspace transmissions

Nothing new, but its got some very nice arrangements of tracks from ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’. they’ve also got lots of other really cool music in there too, so check it out…

Bon Iver - Shepherds Bush Empire, 11 September, 2008

September 20th, 2008

Bon Iver, Shepherds Bush Empire, 11 September, 2008 -- from mullersflickr flickr account

Ok, so I admit it, I’m abit of a music-o-holic at the best of times. I’m always sniffing around for new music, new experiences, the next big thing — anything that will slap me around the back of the head and make me sit up and listen in awe. Several months ago, in one of my frustrating ‘why cant i find anything to listen to?’ moods, I stumbled across Bon Iver’s ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’, and it rapidly became part of my constant play rotations. If it isnt a contender for album of the year, I dont know what is!

So when I heard Bon Iver was coming to town, I knew I just had to witness them on stage and take in all that was their live show, however much the ticket hawkers on ebay were charging. I wasn’t disappointed.

They played with a relentless intensity and beauty that reminded me of Mazzy Star, the dynamic control and simplicity of bands like Low or Sigur Ros. I recently read one fan’s post concert thoughts, stating he much prefered Bon Ivers previous ‘intimate’ performances, like he was inferring that now that there’s a bass player, and a guitar rack full of guitars that they’ve some how bought up, and sold out.

I’ve seen this idea floating around a few blogs as well, but I would also argue that this is merely another case of ‘I like your old stuff better than your new stuff’. Which in itself, seems abit of a pointless argument - having recently listened to Justin Vernons REAL old stuff (pre Bon Iver, a band called DeYarmond Edison), and it sounds remarkably like their new track ‘Blood Bank’. So what people are actually fighting against here, is an artists right to grow and change, because they love what they were. Maybe Bon Iver is changing. Maybe they’ll one day find their way back to what that sound was. But expecting an artist to stay in still frame for your own personal pleasure is as pointless as trying to hold onto running water. Things change… Deal with it!

But I digress… For a performance to a packed venue the size of Shepherds Bush Empire, I struggle to believe this could have been any more intimate and personal than it was. Any added bass and drums actually complimented the texture, rather than detracting from it by overcomplicating the sound. More organic, than intrusive.

Most of the beauty in their musical texture, in my opinion, was not even from the instruments, but the voices in all their glory. Justin Vernon was in fine falsetto voice, as was his band, and they seems to effortlessly acheive a level of unity when singing together that you dont often hear in bands, and even more so with 3-4 male voices in unison. Every time they started up a song, the entire audience was silent and hungrily listening. For a band still coming into its own, everyone there seemed to be a staunch fan.

A tip for you punters going to Shepherds Bush Empire - dont get standing room tickets. I’m 6′4″, and from 10 metres out, the most I saw of the players was heads and shoulders, while my poor partner saw nothing. for the whole concert. (dang it)

If you get a chance to see these guys live, I strongly suggest you do. I look forward to seeing them again, and their 2nd album, which I hope, will involve as many instruments as they see fit! :)

So here are my picks for that night: ‘Flume’, ‘Re: Stacks’, ‘Blood Bank’, and ‘I Believe in You’ (a Talk Talk cover). Enjoy!

the tracks:
Bon Iver - Flume.mp3
Bon Iver - Blood Bank.mp3
Bon Iver - Re Stacks.mp3
Bon Iver - I Believe In You.mp3

flickr photo sets of the night: (including the one above, by mullersflickr)

Holly Throsby - Scala, 14 August, 2008

August 16th, 2008

photo from

Holly Throsby toured the UK opening for Paul Kelly, and her thoughtful, and quiet music complimented the master songwriter well.

She played a few tracks from her albums, including the title track of her latest album, ‘A Loud Call’, and was fairly quiet on stage, but still talkative enough to tell a few stories about her tracks.

Overall, I really enjoyed experiencing her music, and seeing her performing live… find a few of the tracks from the night:
Holly Throsby - A Loud Call.mp3
Holly Throsby - As The Night Dies.mp3
Holly Throsby - Things Between People.mp3

Darren Hanlon - Cadogan Hall, 10 July, 2008

July 15th, 2008

picture by Erika Dias

I pitched up to see The Magnetic Fields at Cadogan Hall, but was pleasantly suprised to find out that another artist I’d been hoping to see at some stage, was opening for them. That artist is of course the Australian singer songwriter, Darren Hanlon.

His set was short and sweet, he was friendly, cracked a few jokes, and took requests from the audience… My fave for the night ‘The Last Night of Not Knowing You’, as it reminded me alot of 2 of my good friends (now married) back in Australia, who met up at a Cranberries concert, back in the early 90’s.

Heres a few tracks from the night:
Darren Hanlon - unknown1.mp3
Darren Hanlon - unknown2.mp3
Darren Hanlon - On The Last Night of Not Knowing You.mp3

Heres a couple of Darren photo’s in Erika Dias’ photo set of the night: