Rick's Archive of Music Reviews, December 2010 to December 2012

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St.Mary's Curch, Wotton-under-Edge

Wotton-under-Edge Arts Association, New Year's Eve Concert 2012, St.Mary's Church, WuE: This has become a tradition now - tonight's concert being at least the 4th in the series - probably far more, I can't remember. Strangely we've never made it to the previous ones, though. Billed as 'light classical' we got a mixture of what would have been 'pop' music in the 1930s (Noel Coward, Ivor Novello) and (to me) lesser known classical composers (Frank Bridge, Lehar, Arensky, Sieczynski). The quartet comprised violin, cello, piano and soprano. It's always impressive to hear a decent soprano up close, simply because of the technique and shear volume. The violinist was our own Justine Tomlinson, "our own" in the sense that she lives on our lane. The cellist was her sister, Juliet, with Robin Baggs on piano and Helen Kucharek the soprano. Starting at 6:00 was jolly civilised because it didn't interfer with people's other plans for New Year's Eve - not that we had any, but I prefer an early concert anyway. Justine and Juliet are freelance, I think, and appear with many artists/orchestras. They both appeared on Jethro Tull's 2002 live album "Living With The Past" (no, that preposition is not a mistake), specifically on "Wond'ring Aloud" and "Life is a Long Song", both recorded originally by Tull in 1971 (yes, I do remember). They are just one half of Wotton's claim to rock stardom, the other being Phil Andrews who played keyboards for Robert Plant on "Sixty Six to Timbuktu".

The Exultate Singers (not all singers shown)

The Exultate Singers, "Carols by Candlelight", St.James Priory, Bristol, 13th December 2012. Both this and the previous day's identical gig were sell-outs - and well deserved for this choir. It is only a couple of months since we last saw/heard the Exultate Singers, and at the same venue. St.James Priory boasts being the oldest building in Bristol, dating from circa 1140. This was a very seasonal performance with traditional carols alternating with devotional music with a generally Christmas theme. The programme was much lighter weight than the previous occasions that we've seen the Exultate. But no complaints - they did what it said on the tin. We got carols by candlelight. The quality of the singing was excellent, as always. The stand-out piece for me was a William Byrd number, "Vigilate". The Exultate have submitted this piece as their entry in a European choir competition. On the strength of what we heard they should have a good chance. The last piece before the interval was by the contemporary Lebanese-French composer Naji Hakim. This appeared to be very popular with the audience, though I didn't go for it myself. Non-alcoholic punch and mince pies were served to us at our seats in the interval. There were no less than three Ave Maria's, one by Holst, one by Biebl, and one by that not-only-piano-stuff guy Rachmaninov. The latter was the finale, and another goodie.

Dick Gaughan (1988 and 2012, the latter photo by Niall Reddy)

Dick Gaughan, Under the Edge Arts, Wotton-under-Edge, 17th November 2012. We had been looking forward to this one all season in the Bradford household. A regular reader will recall my rantings about the quality we can get at UTEA (though not always, unfortunately - I've spared you some duds!). Well Dick did not disappoint and rates in my book as the best we have yet had at UTEA. Jack was not as impressed with Dick's guitar playing as he had hoped to be. But you must understand that Jack is an ultra-purist. Dick's sin was to use an electro-acoustic. This, of course, is merely an acoustic guitar with a microphone built into the body - in no way to be confused with an electric guitar. But there was "too much sustain" for our purist who continues to rate Martin Carthy as our best ever turn. No one can accuse Mr.Traditional, Martin Carthy, of not being impeccably orthodox. I, on the other hand, thought Dick's guitar work rather better than I'd expected. However, this is all beside the point. It's the voice. Dick's voice is belted out from the guts, passes over a bed of smoked gravel and emerges as a defiant broad Scots. It carries complete conviction. You are left in no doubt about Dick's politics. It's been a long while since I heard anyone mention Hugh Scanlon and Jack Jones at all, let alone in the context of being their heros. Old Dick is an unreconstructed socialist, alright. So many of his own compositions reflect his left wing politics, and he has just the right voice to suit such material. But our favourite of his recorded stuff, "A Song for Ireland", is not one of his own compositions, though he did perform it at UTEA. Contrary to our belief beforehand, he is neither a Glaswegian nor a former docker (though he'd be pleased enough, I'm sure, to be told he looks like one). He hails from Leith and has always earned his living as a musician. So a great night.

The Bristol Metropolitan Orchestra, conducter William Goodchild, and Kwesi Edman

The Bristol Metropolitan Orchestra, St.George's, Bristol, 10th November 2012: An evening of twentieth century English orchestral music. It opened with Handel's Overture in D minor (err...didn't you say 20th century..yes,yes, hold up a bit) arranged by Elgar in 1923 (ah!). Frankly I don't know why he bothered. It puzzles me that people express homage by monkeying about with that which they claim to revere. Why not leave old Handel alone? The Handel-Elgar mix sounded rather mongrel to me. I like Handel and I like Elgar, but then I like beer and I like orange juice but I wouldn't mix them. The next piece was Holst's Egdon Heath (1927). A most curious piece which I had taken the precaution of listening to by way of preparation. I intend to do so again in the hope that I will ultimately crack the code. Think Holst, think The Planets, but Holst himself apparently thought Egdon Heath his best work. The last scheduled piece before the interval was Elgar's cello concerto in E minor (1919). You can't go wrong with this one. That rumbling glissando always gets you. The soloist was a young man called Kwesi Edman (pictured). He was all smiles and clearly having a good time. I think there were a couple of dud notes, but I'm not one to bother. He must have connected with the audience because there was applause after the first movement (good heavens!). Also a great drumming of feet at the end called him back for an encore. The unprogrammed solo he choose to play was (predictably) the Prelude from Bach's cello suite in G (also beloved of bass guitar players). After the interval we had Vaughan-Williams' 5th Symphony (1943). Apparently this started life as an opera based on Pilgrim's Progress. I rather wish I didn't know that. The opera did eventually appear some years later and has been performed just once (I think) but is due for another outing very soon. The 5th symphony bears all the Vaughan-Williams trade marks and is unmistakeably his. The 3rd movement is wonderfully lyrical. All told a good choice of pieces for an English night, the enjoyment of which was marred only by the woman behind who coughed continually throughout the whole performance: a disgraceful piece of selfishness - she should should have left the hall in consideration for both audience and players.

Louise Jordan

Louise Jordan, Under the Edge Arts, Wotton-under-Edge, 20th October 2012. Well, what a treat. Having missed Louise on her previous visit to Under the Edge Arts, I confess that we went to this one more out of duty than expectation. But what a voice. Every bit as good as Jacqui McShee or Cara Dillon, Louise was a joy to hear. She openned with Siuil a Ruin, after first checking that there were no Gaelic speakers present! But most of her first set were her own songs, principally off the latest CD, just released last month - namely Florilegium. She explained the name later, saying it meant 'a collection of flowers'. I thought it was a literary word meaning a collection of extracts from previous works, i.e., an anthology. No matter. Her principal accompanying instrument was the guitar, but she also made use of the piano on several numbers, including her own take on 'The Water Is Wide', which suited her voice well. The second half included perhaps more familar pieces as well as her own compositions. The former included Paul Simon's 'April', which she seemed surprised that we knew - odd, it's my favourite Paul Simon song. Strangely we failed to get Louise back for an encore, which is a pity since it may have sent the wrong message. But she played a long set anyway. I told her I was disappointed she had not sung 'Cuckoo', and as compensation a YouTube version Louise singing this is attached below. Her strength is her voice rather than composition, but I strongly recommend seeking out opportunities to see her live.

John Renbourn as he appeared on 18th October 2012 aged 68

John Renbourn (on left) and with Pentangle circa 1970

Wizz Jones circa 2008

John Renbourn and Wizz Jones, St.George's, Bristol, 18th October 2012. One had to be a little concerned about whether either of these venerable gentlemen could still play, let alone sing. John is 68 and Wizz is 73. Both shambled, stooped, around the stage. I need not have been worried. True, no one's voice will still be youthful at that age. But they did credit to the songs they chose, many of which were well suited to an occasionally growling delivery. However, the key thing was the guitar playing. I have always rated Renbourn's guitar playing even above his equally revered erstwhile collaborator Bert Jansch. He did not disappoint, his fingers tripping effortlessly around the fretboard with the muscle-memory born of half a century of playing. His early classical training shows. It is noteworthy that his best solo albums have a 'classical', or rather renaissance, feel. He actually used sheet music at St.George's, for one number anyway, a thing I've never seen any nominally 'folk' artist do before. I confess I had not heard of Wizz Jones before (even I'm not that old!). But he was a pleasant surprise. Wizz did the first set solo. Unfortunately he was beset by technical sound problems, but really that did not detract, despite his discomforture. Clearly they were saving money because no sound engineer leapt to his rescue. The danger of a whole evening with nothing but one (or two) men singing to acoustic guitar accompaniment is wandering of one's attention due to lack of variety. The mark of quality, then, is the avoidance of this pitfall by producing a variety of pieces, with varying pace and varying emphasis on song or musicianship. Both men achieved this, both solo and when performing together. This was the third time I've seen John Renbourn live, each some decades apart. The first time was in Cambridge at Pembroke May Ball in 1975 when he and Jacqui McShee attracted an audience of about 5 people. The second time was in a pub in bath in the late 80s with an audience which was barely greater (maybe 30?). He was rather the worse for wear at the time. I have a strong suspicion that this may be the last time Renbourn tours, so I'm particularly glad I decided to go tonight.

Exultate Singers (not all the 42-strong choir performing on 7/10/12 are shown)

Exultate Singers conducted by David Ogden, 10th Birthday Celebration Concert, St.James' Priory, Bristol, 7th October 2012. Another stunning performance by Exultate. The Eric Whitacre pieces which opened and closed the first half were a pleasant surprise for the neophyte, both of them wonderful. The first ("I thank you God for most this amazing day") was quite magical, with a beautiful atmospheric effect. The second ("Her sacred spirit soars") was a block-buster of a canon of bewildering complexity (12 parts?). Predictably the Bach motet ("Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden") was great. You can rely on old Johannes. Exultate featured their surround-sound party trick on no less than three pieces. Being surrounded, in a full 360 degree circle, by the 42 strong choir produces the most amazing effect, completely immersing the listener. They used this technique most successfully at St.George's on Tallis's "Spem in Allium" (see previous review). At St.James' they gave this treatment first to Bruckner's "Os Justi", which was perhaps the highlight of the concert. In the second half they also did Giovanni da Palestrina's "Sicut Cervus" in surround sound, another triumph and one to note for the previously uninitiated. A piece by Rachmaninov, sung in Russian, was also a pleasant surprise to those who might have thought he only did piano music (e.g., me). The last scheduled piece was Holst's "Nunc dimittis", a short but perfectly formed "Amen". The encore was the third piece to get the surround-sound treatment and was by the Bristol based composer Liz Purnell (I didn’t catch the title). Either she's a great composer or anything sounds good sung this way! Other pieces included works by Purcell, Charles Stanford, Hubert Parry, William Harris, Gerald Finzi, John Ireland, Ian Carpenter and Sibeleius, as well as one number by the hard working choir master himself, David Ogden. There was a cameo appearance by some members of the Royal Mail choir, who featured that same night on Gareth Malone's TV programme.

Steve Ashley

Steve Ashley (solo), Under the Edge Arts, Wotton-under-Edge, 6th October 2012. One of the founder members of The Albion Band, Steve Ashley has performed with everyone in the UK folk scene from the sixties onwards. He plays a right-hand strung guitar left-handed.

Dave Oakley

Chameleon and Dave Oakley, Under the Edge Arts, Wotton-under-Edge, 29th September 2012.

Musicke in the Ayre

"The People's Prince" performed by Musicke in the Ayre, Under the Edge Arts, Wotton-under-Edge, 26th May 2012. Musicke in the Ayre are Helen Atkinson (soprano, lute) and Din Ghani (lute, bass viol). 400 years ago, Henry Stuart, Prince of Wales, died aged 18, an event that changed the course of English history. The eldest son of James I, he was the dashing young prince beloved of the people (more so than his father). A great patron of the arts as well as a highly promising future monarch, his death caused a nationwide outpouring of grief, expressed from the streets as well as through literature and music. This concert brought this fascinating period of history to life through music written both by musicians in Henry's own court, and by others paying tribute to him both in life and in death. Much was published in books dedicated to the Prince, some pieces were written for the Masques that people like Ben Jonson created for the court, others for the theatre where the works of Shakespeare and Fletcher were enjoyed by the people. Much of this music was written for voice accompanied by lute and/or viol, with musicians and poets fusing their skills in one of the loveliest forms of art music. The programme included pieces by William Byrd, John Coperario, Alfonso Ferrabosco the Younger, Robert Johnson and Thomas Campion. I'll take more of this, please.

The Rinaldo Consort and Choir, plus guest soloists (listed above)

"Handel - Divine Music for Trumpets & Voices", St.Mary's church, Wotton-under-Edge. We were unsure how this would work - having an actor reciting the story of Handel's life during the concert. Actually it worked very well. The brief monologues put each piece nicely in context, progessing chronologically through the composer's life. Performing in St.Mary's church, WuE, was apposite. The church organ was moved to St.Mary's in 1800 from its original place in St.Martin-in-the-Fields. It was a gift from King George I and was played at its inauguration by Handel himself. This was not lost on the actor playing Handel, who alluded to the fact in his introduction. The 27 strong choir was augmented by three soloists (see picture) plus a 29 piece orchestra boasting 8 trumpeters. Only baroque trumpets were used (without valves). Altogether a very enjoyable evening and very well attended. The church was nearly full (and I believe it seats 600).

Cardinall's Music

Cardinall's Music, A Concert of William Byrd compositions, "Music for Passiontide": St.George's, Bristol, 24th March 2012. This was, perhaps, taking the pursuit of high culture a little too far. Not that there is anything wrong with William Byrd - judiciously chosen. However the St.John Passion is less than enthralling, consisting almost entirely of plain song chant of the whole Easter story from the book of John - verbatim and in Latin. The opening piece was the Mass for Four Voices - a far more approachable prospect. I was rather confused, though, that the Mass got truncated after just two 'movements' (is this the right term in this context?). But the rest had been deliberately deferred until after the St.John Passion. In fact the Mass was broken up further, with Plorans Plorabit being inserted between the Credo and the Sanctus. Such fragmentation would be unspeakably weird in later, orchestral, classical music - but are such things acceptable in renaissance choral music? After the interval there were six more Byrd pieces. All would have been a pleasure to hear but we were rather fatigued after the demanding first half. This performance was part of a UK tour by Cardinall's Music, taking the whole of Byrd's oeuvre with them to perform every piece somewhere during 2012.

Claire Jones

Claire Jones, 10th March 2012: an Under the Edge Arts event held in St Mary's Church, Wotton-u-Edge: A bit stiff, this. I'm used to having stumble only the two hundred yards to UTEA in the Chipping, but this time the venue was the church - heck, a hike of nearly three minutes more. This was a dazzling display of harp virtuosity. Claire had plenty to say between pieces, not surprisingly given her recent period as Royal Harpist. Consequently she has a huge number of 'command' performances to her credit, including many one-on-one performances for the Queen's or Prince Charles's private enjoyment. She performed at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, so Under the Edge Arts was possibly a little out of its social class on this one. I learnt something about harps. I had always thought that a harp was just the innards of a piano turned on its side. But having the opportunity to look closely at one showed that the strings were arranged in alternating three's and four's. I could not figure out how to get 12 semitones out of that. The explanation is that the sharps and flats are obtained via the pedals. All seven notes have their own pedal (at least on the full size concert harp with 47 strings). So with no pedals set up or down the harp is a diatonic instrument, i.e., fixed to C-major. I guess this might make it easier than the piano in the sense that you just set the pedals to the required key and then forget the sharps and flats and just play the strings. It'll be those pesky off-scale sharps and flats that'll be the problem, requiring you to jump up and down on the pedals in mid-flight. Claire showed us the main special fingering effects n the harp. The most famous, which everyone will recognise as the introduction to a dream sequence in an old fashioned Hollywood film, is the glissando.

Exultate Singers (not all of the 25/2/12 performers are shown)

Exultate Singers, cond. David Ogden, St George's, Bristol, 25th February 2012: This was an impressively long set, from 7:30 to 10:30 with a half hour interval. I'll do my best with this review, but bear in mind I'm a cloth-eared moron. I can't remember counting the choir members, but the programme lists 50 names. The first half of the programme was the serious business: a selection of divine music (in both senses) which, were I better educated, I could probably refer to as "well known". Starting with devotional works from the Tudor and Baroque periods the programme progressed to their later successors (Bruckner, Williams). Then came the first modern piece, by David Bednall. It turned out that the composer was the guy sitting next to me, who took a bow at the end. Good job I didn't say anything derogatory (it would not have been justified anyway). Then we came to the first of the two blockbusters: Dixit Dominus by Benevoli. I think this is the one that was sneaked out of the Vatican without permission. Prior to the interval was the second blockbuster, and the piece I was most keen on hearing: Spem in Alium by Thomas Tallis. This is a 40 part motet, set for eight sub-choirs of five voices each. Read any review and they universally say it is "regarded as one of the pinnacles of Renaissance polyphony". It's a belter, all right. For this one the choir took to the balcony, spread out along both sides, and the lights were dimmed. Fantastic effect. This "surround sound" idea has a tradition for Spem in Alium. The second set was lighter music and less compelling. The full programme was: O Clap Your Hands (Orlando Gibbons); Thou Knowest Lord (Purcell); Laudibus in Sanctis (Byrd); Os Justi (Bruckner); Mass in G minor,‘Gloria’ (Vaughan Williams); The Souls of the Righteous (David Bednall); Dixit Dominus (Orazio Benevoli); Mother of God, Here I Stand (Tavener); Spem in Alium (Tallis); Steal Away (Tippett); White Flowering Days (Finzi); Mid-winter Songs (Morten Lauridsen); The Hills (Ireland); There is an Old Belief (Charles (Hubert) Parry); Sweet Thames Flow Softly (Trad. arr. Barbara Rusbridge).

Joe Topping

Joe Topping, Wotton-u-Edge, Under the Edge Arts, 27th January 2012: If you've read these reviews previously you'll be sick of me banging on about the quality of performer you can get to travel the length of the country to sing to twenty-odd people. Joe Topping was another case in point. His main stength is a beautiful voice, but his guitar playing was also first rate and rather idiosyncratic in style. He had a nice line in slide guitar, played on a resonator guitar. Little Red Rooster was the obvious example, but the slide was used to good effect on many songs. He played a mix of his own compositions and traditional songs, all (?) of which appear on the CD which I bought. The best gauge of quality is what the CD sounds like after the show. This stood up well and I played it many times over the next few days.

Steve Tilston

Steve Tilston Trio, Wotton, Under The Edge Arts Centre, 14th January 2012: This was a sell-out, a good start for the new season for UTEA. And it was another truly excellent gig just 200 yards from my house. There were a lot of long-time fans of Tilston's up from Bristol for the event. Very ably accompanied by Stuart Gordon on fiddle and Keith Warmington on harp (harmonica, that is) and occasional guitar. The three musicians complemented each other nicely, with Gordon's fiddling being particularly impressive (Tilston's guitar playing goes without saying). There was no support act, though Keith and Stuart did an openning spot of a few numbers on their own. With a brief interval they played for nearly three hours but time never dragged, a sure sign of variety. This is due mostly, I suspect, to Tilston's song writing. Good song writing is far rarer than good musicianship. The usual pile of CDs was on sale, but a variation on the merchandise theme was provided by Tilston's first novel, which (surprisingly) was going like hot cakes.

La Nuova Musica

La Nuova Musica, Handel's Messiah, St George's, Bristol, 18th December 2011: This was a production faithful to Handel's original intention. Eschewing the modern tendency for massive choirs and full symphony orchestra, this was comparatively intimate - made even more so by our seats on the front row. The choir was (about) 12 strong. I think they all had a solo spot at some point, and the solo singing was very much the focus. The orchestra was correspondingly modest in size - and consisted entirely of women apart from the first violinist. I was bemused that the cellists preferred not to use the usual spike but instead gripped the instrument between their womanly thighs (strangely disconcerting) giving the appearance of levitation. Surely they must get cramp? Shame on me, my mind should have been on higher things. To be honest I was rather worried beforehand that the whole Messiah might drag a little. But, no, it did not. The two-plus hours passed quickly and most pleasurably. I am in awe of the technical accomplishment of these people. Centre stage was a strange harpisichord-organ contraption which they appeared to have no end of trouble tuning, all sorts of unpleasant sounds being emitted in the interval. I would dearly like to know what was going on. Whether this had anything to do with the omission of one of the movements (appropriately "Their Sound Is Gone Out") I don't know. However the other 52 movements were all religiously performed.

Clive Gregson

Clive Gregson, Wotton, Under The Edge Arts Centre, November 2011: A welcome return to Under the Edge Arts for Clive Gregson. He certainly impressed when he was last here (when was that? It must have been before 2009 since he does not feature in these reviews). Last time we were treated mostly to his back catalogue. This time his latest album "Bittersweet" featured most strongly, the title track of which can be heard on the YouTube link below. As before he also played many covers. His ability to play virtually anything, by anyone, on request, is amazingly impressive. No supporting musicians, just Clive.

Rosafresca, and Steve Walter with vihuela

Rosafresca - Wotton Under the Edge Arts Centre, 15th July 2011: An evening of Spanish Renaissance music. I could happily have listened to a great deal more. Rosafresca consists of three core members playing respectively the vihuela (or lute), the viol and a cornamuse or other wind instrument from the period. The vihuela is a fore-runner of the Spanish guitar. It comes in several varieties but is generally an 12 stringed instrument, the strings being arranged in pairs in a similar manner to a 12 string guitar. Properly it has movable frets. The cornamuse is a double-reed wind instrument with a hard, gazoo-like sound. The three instrumentalists were joined by guest singers, a tenor and a soprano - both excellent, as were the players. I'll certainly go again if we get them back.

Rick Wakeman in the "Yes" days, with famous cape and long blond hair

Rick Wakeman more recently

(Rick Wakeman, St.George's, Bristol, 22nd May 2011): We went into St.George's the back way, through the car park. The old Bentley with the RW 100 registration plate confirmed that the great man had arrived. Well, we weren't going to get this guy at Under-the-Edge Arts. I last saw Rick Wakeman when he was with "Yes" in 1972, looking exactly as shown in the upper picture, above. But tonight a prog rock extravaganza it was not. It was just Wakeman with a grand piano. No frills. He doesn't need any. He can play, and some. He is now 62 and remarked on how frequently he has to visit the doctor these days. (He can't complain. He had his first heart attack at the age of 25, the first of several in his twenties. He was an infamous party animal in his younger days, which we can assume was not unrelated). I confess I know next to nothing of his work after "Yes", though pieces from The Six Wives of Henry VIII have entered national consciousness without us realising. And we all know, without knowing it, his contributions to smash hits by Bowie, Elton John, Cat Stevens, and an endless list of others. I was something of a Strawbs fan at one time. Apart from this, and Yes, most of the music he played was new to me. He did one Strawbs piece and one Yes piece. I expect he thought he had to (correct). But mostly he played his later solo career stuff, or other things entirely. He did the "twiddley bits" from Cat Stevens' "Morning Has Broken" - for which he never got paid, and boy isn't he miffed. He also did a highly entertaining medley of nursery rhymes, each one in the style of a different composer (Mozart, Debussy, Ravel, Rachmaninov...and Dawson - that's Les Dawson, he quipped, the only English composer in the list). But apart from the brilliant piano playing, he regaled the audience with long, witty anecdotes between each piece. This, I believe, is his usual practice, capitalising on his TV Grumpy Old Man persona, to which he is admirably suited. In his long career he has played with, or met with, everyone, and not just in the music business but more widely in the entertainment industry. So he has endless material to call upon. An excellent evening all round.

Coby Grant (above)

Gavin Thorpe

(Coby Grant and Gavin Thorpe, Wotton-under-Edge Arts Centre, 14th May 2011): The main act was local boy Gavin. As he put it, "this is weird, I used to have school assembly in this hall". As a consequence, the audience was not our usual clientele. It was pretty packed for WUE Arts and mostly about 30-ish. Clearly old muckers of Gavin, and it was equally clear that he was keen to get down to The Star sharpish afterwards. However, the Australian singer/song-writer, Coby, stole the show in my view. Very easy on both eye and ear, she sounded rather like the young Joni Mitchell. (Having just checked out an early video of Joni I now realise they look earily similar, too - long blond hair and all). Coby delivered her querky, high pitched songs with great presence and a confident comedic slant. I'd happily listen again. Then Gavin belted out his material. "Belted out" captures it nicely, I think. More of a rock vocalist than folk, despite being only self-accompanied on an acoustic. The audience was obviously well versed in his oeuvre (more so than Gavin, it would seem, who required audience assistance to recall a first line at one point). Certainly he could sing, and could rock the audience to good effect. I rather thought he was not quite as good as he thought he was, though. His guitar playing was rather rudimentary, though he usually plays with a band I understand, so a solo gig was probably a special for his home town. However, he was very good - and has written some excellent recorded material (check out You Tube). Yet another example of the quality that can be served up at a 50 seater venue in a small town.

Kevin Dempsey

(Kevin Dempsey, Wotton-under-Edge Arts Centre, 6th May 2011): Another singer-song-writer-guitarist of very high standard appearing right here on my doorstep in Wotton. There's so many great performers around. For every big name there's ten more musicians just as good, or better, who will play to small venues with an audience of barely 30. Give them more work! Open more venues! Go and see them, for heaven's sake. Kevin has the added of advantage of an entertaining line in patter.

Tommy Emmanuel

(Tommy Emmanuel, Colston Hall, Bristol, 28th April 2011): I confess I'd not heard of Tommy Emmanuel before, but this was quite a revelation. Heck he can move his fingers fast over that fret board. He's been playing since the age of 9 when his father put the whole family on the road in Australia as a band. He's now 55, so he's had a lot of practice. He plays in many different styles: folk, rock-a-billy, blues, funk-jazz, Beatles medleys, you name it. The gig was in two sets, effectively providing his own support. He was ably accompanied by his band who also contributed to singing spots. Definitely well worth the trip out and strongly recommended if you get the chance.

Daisy Chapman

(Daisy Chapman, Wotton-under-Edge Arts Centre, 25th February 2011): I wasn't looking forward to this at all. In truth I only went because I thought there would be a poor turn-out. There was. Only about 25 or 30 or so. And it was very nearly a disaster with the PA too. The screetching was eventually traced to a faulty lead and cured on replacement. Did we look like a bunch of yokel amateurs? Yep. But what a pleasant surprise Daisy was. Singing from a keyboard she made good use of loops and occasional use of her accompanying cellist. Lovely voice. Most songs were from her last, and now one year old, album The Green Eyed. I bought the album, some tracks from which you can hear on the above embedded media players (or on the videos below). There's a great many excellent musicians out there, every bit as good as the ones that are household names. But Daisy can also write a good song, which appears to be less common. It is remarkable what quality performers you can get at a small venue like Under The Edge Arts. One song she did was new and not previously performed. A new album in preparation, perhaps? It sounded good. I'll watch out for it.

Tal Wilkenfeld (2008), recently appearing with Jeff Beck, The Allman Brothers, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Govm't Mule,...