With Just A Hint Of Mayhem

Music trivia, useless info, extra added random stuff and the odd rant from me

Alice Simmons and Zak Ford – Songs Under Skies – National Centre For Early Music (NCEM), York – Tuesday 15th June 2021 June 22, 2021

Filed under: Review — justwilliam1959 @ 9:36 pm
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This was show 4 of 5 of the second series of Songs Under Skies (the last was September 2020) in the grounds of the iconic York venue the National Centre For Early Music (NCEM). Tonight it was the turn of some musical talent that help showcase just what a wonderful hotbed of music York actually is. First to take the tiny stage was Zak Ford who has featured on this blog before as a solo artist and also as vocalist for This House Is Haunted. This was apparently his first gig in two years thanks to Covid. His first song, which I think was called “Use A Light” was very Jeff Buckleyesque in style and delivery. On his next song he unleashed some sublime guitar work which was reminiscent of Jonny Greenwood in one of his more mellow moments. I love “Healing Place”, it is a yearning, proto ballad with an underlying happy vibe. One of my favourite Zak Ford songs is “My Body” and tonight’s rendition maintained the songs haunting beauty. Zak did Bon Iver proud with a sublime cover of “Hey Ma”. Like many musicians Zak has continued to write and he played us a lovely tune called “Hopes And Fears” which he wrote in a very positive frame of mind during the first lockdown last year. I am looking forward to seeing Zak play live again, either solo or as a part of This House Is Haunted.

Next up is another artist who has been featured in these pages before, Alice Simmons. A very talented singer songwriter and performer who I believe has the talent and potential to go a long way. I spoke to Alice earlier in the evening and understandably she was nervous, as almost every artist probably is after a year or more of not being able to perform. But on stage there was not even a hint of nerves from Alice as she glided through a wonderful set with support from the guitar maestro known as Tim Downie. “Bridges” is a plaintive ballad over which Alice’s smoky vocal glides over the tune like a banished angel seeking a return to heaven. Next up was a stunning cover of James Brown’s “It’s Man’s Man’s World” which in the hands of a female vocalist transforms into a feminist anthem. Alice was on top form for this, she has a Winehouse sized talent. She readily admits that she writes mostly sad songs and maybe there is some truth in that, but when they have the depth and quality of the sublime, lilting ballad “State Of Mind” I don’t really mind at all. But for all the sad songs Alice is most definitely a happy person. Alice ran through a great cover of Paolo Nutini’s “Candy”, a song I must confess that I am not very familiar with, but she made it her own. Perhaps my favourite of Alice’s original songs is “Black Coffee”, it has depression, desolation and despair, proving again that she does write sad songs, but oh so very well. She closed her set with an inspired choice of cover, the 25 year old Blackstreet smash “No Diggity”. Alice performed the song like it was made for her, but the real star for this finale was the incredibly funky acoustic guitar sounds from Tim Downie. I recommend you explore both of tonights incredibly talented artists further, you will not be disappointed!

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Julia Bardo – Fulford Arms, York – Saturday 14th March 2020 March 30, 2020


This post is very late largely because the whole COVID-19 somewhat dampened my enthusiasm for writing. This is now the last gig for me and all of us for weeks, maybe months. So I feel a need to document it. It was another great looking line up from Simon Pattinson head honcho of Northern Radar. First up were Fawn, a musically talented bunch and the pet project of Ilana Zsigmond, a transatlantic singer-songwriter who moved to the UK a few years ago. Her band featured Crispin Halcrow who has featured on this blog before as a solo performer. Ilana reminds me of Linda Ronstadt in her early, in which case are her band a fledgling Eagles? Who knows? Crispin is more Glen Frey than Joe Walsh in style, so maybe! Ilana’s between-song banter was intelligent, amusing and frankly spot on. Her song about York (apologies I missed the title) was close to sublime while “Skin” was truly stunning, a really beautiful song. For me, it encapsulates perfectly that journey of understanding who you are and getting to know and understand yourself. Lyrically it is faultless, with my favourite line being ““But I still build forts and I still skip stones and I still haven’t read every book that I own”. That sums me up to a degree, although I probably need to start building more forts!

Fawn

Next up is the extraordinarily talented Kitty VR. I have seen her previously with a band and also solo acoustic, tonight was with a full band. In this environment, Kitty loses a little of her solo acoustic fragility. But that is more than compensated for by the deeper and more expansive sound that a band brings to her growing canon of great songs. “My Kind” is an open-hearted lament when performed solo acoustically. But here it felt like an amazing collaboration between Massive Attack, Portishead and the Cocteau Twins with Jimmy Page producing. this was not just a highlight of Kitty’s set for me, it was also the highlight of the night! Kitty, whether with band or solo retains that elusive Jeff Buckleyesque style that since Jeff’s sad demise I have only ever heard through Kitty and her supremely talented contemporary Laura Kindelan.

Kitty VR

This was the first time that I had come across Julia Bardo and I was pretty impressed. She has great songs with elements that sit on the softer side of Patti Smith and maybe a little Justine Frischmann (Elastica) and Louise Wener (Sleeper) seeping into Julia’s tonal quality. She has some soaring, heartfelt and soul pouring ballads in her powerful song repertoire. There is also a Stevie Nicks comparison which wasn’t apparent until Julia and her band launched into an awesome cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”.  But this was not just a carbon copy cover the song evolved into an extended guitar fade, jam, wigout that matched the Velvet Underground at their peak. Julia Bardo is well worth checking out if you like great music and classy tunes you will love her stuff! Interestingly given the focus on gender equality festival line ups all three of tonight’s acts were incredibly talented women. Festival organisers take note for 2021 (on the assumption that the 2020 festival season will be canned).

Julia Bardo

After the gig, I went for a few drinks with the aforementioned Simon Pattinson and Jared, Joe and Jordan from Avalanche Party who were punters at the show. That is another band that I am looking forward to seeing again once this virus is history. Given that was my final pub visit before close down I can think of far worse people to spend it with. Simon, Jared, Joe, and Jordan thanks for a great night and I look forward to meeting up again on the other side of all this!

All the photos apart from the gig poster were taken by me on my cheap Chinese android phone. The videos were all found on YouTube if one of them is yours and you would like a credit or for me to remove it please let me know. 

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Interview – Laura Kindelan – March 19th 2018 March 22, 2018


Laura checks out an excellent, if somewhat expensive, Toots & the Maytals LP at the Vinyl Cafe.

I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing York singer, songwriter and ace musician Laura Kindelan earlier this week in 45 The Vinyl Cafe on Micklegate. Laura was eloquent, effervescent and spoke about her major influences, where she might take her sound next, her musical guilty pleasures and her favourite chocolate among many other things. Check out that conversation below.

  1. Who is your biggest musical influence and why?

Well there isn’t just one person, for me it’s the sound and the performance. For the sound, it has to be Lianne La Havas; I love her jazz guitar, melodic vocals and song writing. I particularly love her lyrical patterns and use of unusual words. My history teacher introduced me to her.

As for performance, I would have to name two people; Amy Winehouse and Damien Rice. I believe that both of them show the beauty of imperfections. Damien Rice’s mix of his first album “O” massively fluctuates in volume within songs, which could be considered wrong but I believe it’s emotive.

  1. What is next for you, where do you go from here?

I am very happy to be a slow burner. I am not focussed at all on becoming a product or a brand. I want to be a well-respected musician, singer and song writer. That has to include maintaining respect for myself and my craft. I want my music to speak for me, not the image. I would also love to work with a really tight rhythm section in the future.

  1. Musically do you have any of what you might consider guilty pleasures, if so what are they?

That is a tough one, the first one that I can think of is Abba. However, I don’t feel too guilty about it as they wrote, produced and released such great songs. But perhaps my real guilty pleasure is my ‘go to’ party song; “Bitch Better Have My Money” by Rihanna.

Photo by Michael Parr

  1. How do you prepare for a gig?

First, I always do some vocal warm ups. I like to make myself feel nice, to feel good. I don’t often wear much make-up, but for a show, I choose to get dressed up with make-up and nice clothes. Everything I do to prepare for a gig contributes to making me feel comfortable and confident on stage. I really believe that a performer should invest the audience in what they do by personally connecting with them, and to do that, you need to be happy and comfortable with yourself. Confidence is key to any good performance.

  1. Name one thing in your musical career that you are most proud of and feel free to tell us why?

My headline show last year at the National Centre for Early Music in York. It felt like such a magical night and I am so proud that I did it. I can’t quite believe that it happened. There were around 180 people there, really listening and enjoying the night – It’s definitely something I’ll never forget.

Click here to check out my review of that show on this blog last year

  1. What drives you to write songs?

Sometimes it is all about getting something off my mind; a feeling or a relationship perhaps. Currently I really love to experiment with harmonies, shapes and different tunings on my guitar. I think I draw influence in this experimentation from Jeff Buckley and Tom Misch, particularly with pretty harmony and rhythm from the latter. I see my sound as evolving into something similar to Tom Misch, only much grottier!

Photograph by Tomorrow’s Photos

  1. How does your song writing process work?

I have lots of lyrics stored on my phone that I’ve written as they come to me and I sometimes go there for inspiration. Although, as I said before, I love to experiment with harmony and chord progressions so I often begin here.

  1. Name a song that you believe you could cover and make it better than the original?

At the moment I am playing around with a very different arrangement of “Do I Wanna Know” by the Arctic Monkeys. I am trying out a very slowed down version which is more ‘head bobby’, with more dissonance and harmonics. I think this new vibe adds more meaning to the lyrics.

  1. Which of your songs would you like to see covered by someone else and who would be your top choice to do it?

I would like it to be someone completely different from me, how about Hello Operator? That could actually be amazing, we should make it happen!

Photo by Tim Downie

  1. Tell me something that you have never told an interviewer before (and this does not need to be music related)?

My signature dish, that I make incredibly well (if I do say so myself), is Carbonara with mushrooms, bacon and cream. Bon appétit.

  1. Name three things that you simply cannot live without?

My family, good food and Doctor Martens. I’m hoping to build a collection of Docs – I currently have four pairs, including one with a snake-skin pattern.

  1. What is your favourite confectionary item?

Terry’s Chocolate Orange, beyond any doubt the best there is!

Now check out some of Laura’s rather excellent tunes.

All photographs were provided to me by Laura and are credited to the photographer in the caption. The first picture was a rare good one taken on my phone. Video links were specially selected by Laura herself.

 

 
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