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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Laura Kindelan – Centre for Early Music, York – Saturday 4th November 2017 November 7, 2017

I first saw Laura Kindelan back in July when she was part of the bill supporting Billie Marten at the Basement in York. She was an absolutely delightful and talented performer back then which made me really keen to see her play again. This showcase gig at the beautiful venue that is York’s Centre For Early Music was to promote “Sippin’ Whisky” which is her newest release. Was she as good this time as she was in the summer? You will have to read on to find that out. Zak Ford was tonight’s support act, this young man is a little folky, a little soulful and he has written some excellent songs based on tonight’s evidence. Notably “Honest Man” and “My Body”. My only criticism is that at times his enunciation could have been clearer. But that aside it was a very good set of songs and a heartfelt performance.

Now bearing in mind that Laura is barely 18 she has a talent and an ability that is way beyond her years. Yet she still maintains the enthusiasm and hope that youth brings. Her songs tell stories and evoke some of the best ‘kitchen sink dramas‘. She is a consummate song-smith and wordsmith and she really seems to love her time on stage. listening to Laura’s recordings on CD, Spotify and the like it is easy to hear that she has a precocious, natural talent. But for me she is also one of those relatively great artists whose live shows make the recorded music really come alive. Laura supports her emotionally strong and soulful voice with some relatively sparse guitar accompaniment. Let’s not forget that she is also quite a skilled guitarist.

In my earlier review I likened Laura to the late great Jeff Buckley and I still believe that her approach and style oozes the spirit of Mr Buckley. But then on songs like “The Beginning” she could be channelling Kate Nash. But while these comparisons exist for me that does not take away from the fact that Laura Kindelan has the potential to become a towering talent. Lyrically she clearly shows a mature understanding of life and relationships, perhaps most notably on “Fists”. If pushed I think I would say that “Sweet Tooth” is still my favourite Kindelan classic, but that is facing tough competition from “Colours” and the aforementioned “Sippin’ Whisky”. Her cover of the Billie Holiday standard “Good Morning Heartache” reaches in to the heart of the song and turns it into a more modern electric, but still so sad, blues lament. While I am not saying Laura is the new Billie Holiday she does totally own the song with a stunning arrangement and a very clever use of a loop effect. In my opinion covers should take a step away from the original and this takes a long stride, similar to the strides Jeff Buckley took with covers of “Lilac Wine” and “Hallelujah”. I really hope that Laura makes the right choice and gets the University that she wants, but selfishly I also hope her time as a Uni student doesn’t take her too far from her wonderful music. You really need to check out her music, you will not be disappointed and many of you will join the growing ranks of Laura Kindelan fans!

All videos searched and sourced from YouTube and the photos are courtesy of the Magnificent Marc McGarraghy at Yellow Mustang Photography.


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