Quick plays: THE GRAHAMS, MAURA KENNEDY, GILLIAN GLOVER

THE GRAHAMS Glory Bound

THE GRAHAMS Glory Bound
12 South Records [Release date 02.10.15]

Husband and wife Americana duo Alyssa and Doug Graham follow up their 2013 debut Riverman’s Daughter with the dual release of their studio album Glory Bound, and Rattle The Hocks – a documentary filmed on the move and in venues from Sun Studio to Amtrak’s famed City of New Orleans train which chronicles their train bound excursions that track the lines stitching together their Americana roots.

Their debut took inspiration from the paths of Mississippi’s Great River Road, Glory Bound takes the listener on journey that retraces the railroad lines that created the Americana musical landscape.  And in some style.  For those who enjoy their American ‘rare’ and served bar room style with ‘saucy’ female vocals, look no further.

From country rock, blues harmonica infused boogie, honky tonk, country and gospel, The Grahams guarantee a good time that captures the rhythms of the past with some cracking vocals and a healthy head of contemporary steam.  If you’re seeking a ‘good time’ catch them on their November 2015 UK and Ireland tour.  ***

Review by Pete Whalley

CRIMSON CHRYSALIS Enraptured
[Release date 07.15]

South African symphonic rock.  Why not?  And spiced with duets with Andrea Casanova of Spanish goth metal band Rainover, and Jessica Mercy of US symphonic metal band Anaria to add a multi-cultural element.

Crimson Chrysalis – fronted by Rene van den Berg – were, in fact, the first band ever to produce symphonic rock in South Africa but, hey, the globe is a small place in these digital days.  So much so that it’s difficult to spot most bands’ roots.

The band – a five-piece comprising Elben Schutte (keys), Mauritz Lotz (guitar), Cobus Schutte (guitar), Denny Lallouette (bass) and Vinnie Henrico (drums) – is however masterminded by front woman van den Berg who somewhat unusually not only composes the music and produces (with non-band member Esther Slabbert contributing lyrics).

But the ‘symphonic’ tag is perhaps a little misplaced – yes there are ‘symphonic’ elements, but Crimson Chrysalis is more a marriage of rock and opera, with van den Berg delivering a truly diva like performance.  Dramatic and theatrical, the material ranges from the flamenco infused Surrender to a cover of Alice Cooper’s 1989 hit Poison.

Naturally, there are plenty of strings, and you also get African drummers and Xhosa tenor vocals, but van den Berg holds centre stage with aplomb.  It’s difficult to see exactly where Crimson Chrysalis sit in the musical spectrum.  Much of Enraptured sounds like its natural positioning is the West End, or Symphony Halls.  And it makes a rather pleasant and cultured change to the overbearing bombast of most current day symphonic rock.  ***

Review by Pete Whalley

VIENNA D’AMATO HALL It’s What The Dog Saw

Vienna D’Amato Hall is a young American/Canadain singer-songwriter, whose self-released debut album It’s What The Dog Saw was written and recorded in New York City in early 2014.

But while her musical interests were first inspired by traditional folk songs on an old cassette tape of her late grandmother, and also by the works of Leonard Cohen and Laura Marling, her own debut is far more eclectic.

With cameos by New York musicians David Patterson (classical guitar), Eszter Balint (violin) and Michael McCloskey (violin), the album was produced by Andre Fratto – a film/TV composer who also contributed some guitar parts and played all other instruments.

A trawl of the net reveals very little more.  Perhaps most interestingly that her grandfather was a leading producer for Decca in the ’60s and ’70s although he never got anywhere near pop/rock production, specialising in the classical field.

It’s What The Dog Saw, does however open with ’60s sounding ‘Song Of Ruth’ which has an Everly’s vibe.  ‘Dare We Dance’ is delivered in more familiar, acoustic troubadour style, while the title track shimmers and broods hauntingly.  The strongest numbers are perhaps ‘Dear Child’, which aches in an early Sinead O’Connor sort of way, ‘Black Beads Of Volcano’ which is reminiscent of Eleanor McEvoy, and the simply beautiful ‘White Bird (Tommy)’.

A diverse and cultured debut, and one to be savoured.  ***

Review by Pete Whalley

MAURA KENNEDY - Villanelle

MAURA KENNEDY – Villanelle
Varese Sarabande [Release date 16.10.15]

Both halves of the New York the folk/rock husband/wife duo The Kennedys, are releasing 2015 solo albums – in addition to this year’s ‘band’ release West.

While hubby Pete went for a truly ‘solo’ project, Maura teamed up with widely published California poet B D Love who provided original poetry which Maura wove into sympathetic melodies.

Fully written and recorded in just five and a half weeks, unlike her hubby’s project Maura brought in not only her other half, but additional ‘guests’ to contribute drums, piano, strings, bass, guitar and accordion.

And including a wider range of contributors definitely pays off.  Compared to Pete’s DIY effort, Villanelle is an altogether more rounded affair.  There’s some sublime moments – ‘Soldier’s Wife’,  ‘She Worked Her Magic On Me’, and ‘Coyotes’, that only serve to underline – a bit like Thea Gilmore and Nigel Stonier, that ‘other’ halves sometimes clip the wings of their more talented ‘other halves’.

For those who’ve enjoyed The Kennedy’s previous output, Villanelle will not disappoint.  ***

Review by Pete Whalley

PETE KENNEDY Heart Of Gotham
[Release date 18.10.15]

Both halves of the New York the folk/rock husband/wife duo The Kennedys, are releasing 2015 solo albums – in addition to this year’s ‘band’ release West.

In the case of Pete, his first solo effort after two decades as a singer-songwriter has been described as a ‘love letter to New York’.  Recorded over five-year period in his Manhattan studio, and written over a series of early morning sessions over coffee in an East Village diner, he plays all the instruments on the collection, as well as singing all the lead and background vocals.

Sadly, Heart Of Gotham, turns out to be sub-standard Springsteen.  The songs aren’t bad, but Pete’s vocals are thin and whispery.  It’s a bit like asking Nils Lofgren or Steven Van Zant to step up to the plate and take lead vocals at a Springsteen gig because The Boss is feeling ‘off colour’.  It’s passable, but most patrons would probably want their money back.  **

Review by Pete Whalley

GILLIAN GLOVER Still Life With Music
Make My Day Music Ltd [Release date 28.09.15]

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – it ain’t always wise to follow Mum or Dad in to the music biz.  Although it seems to be a rule that doesn’t necessarily apply to drummers (Jason Bonham, Zak Starkey, Simon Collins).

But you’d be advised to think twice, or at least do a little more detailed research than observing the five star Amazon reviews before shelling out on Gillian, son of Deep Purple’s Roger, Glover’s second album Still Life With Music.

Of course, it all depends what you’re looking for.  And it’s more akin to the 1970s Music For Pleasure releases than anything you’d find on Purple Records.  It opens with ‘Catalina’ – a light acoustic samba, partially sung in Spanish and descends into meandering acoustic based numbers that while pleasant, are fairly directionless.  There’s some nice violin, cello and thrown in, and the single ‘Fitful Night’ with pleasant flute accompaniment is the pick of the bunch.

Nothing wrong with the vocals either, and the closer ‘Cairo’ throws a curve ball into the mix – a Eastern soundtrack composed with Dad, built around atmospheric keys, percussion and ghostly wailing.

Those three tracks aside, I’d describe Still Life as ‘average’.  If you heard it being played in the background while dining at a beachside restaurant in the Med, you’d find it very pleasant ‘muzak’.  But I’m not convinced it stands up well to closer scrutiny.  **

Review by Pete Whalley

SARAH CLASS Unity
Glorious Technicolour Records [Release date 02.10.15]

No relation to Myleene (different spelling, I know), but in terms of ‘cool’ to the rock fraternity, Sarah Class sadly isn’t that far removed in terms of appeal.

When you look at her pedigree, leading to this debut release – the composer and producer of the acclaimed 2001 all girl choir Cantamus which spent several months in the classical charts, two songs written and arranged for the 2003 Hayley Westerna #1 album Pure, plus writing music for the BBC/Harvey Weinstein production of The Meerkats, and compositions for BBC series Madagascar – then yes, Unity is an attempt to reach out to a wider audience.

But the mildly Imelda May-inspired ‘Suits You Fine’, and a rather pleasant cover of James Taylor’s ‘Fire And Rain’ aside, Unity is almost too ‘safe’ for even Radio 2 audiences.  Which begs the question – who is Unity going to appeal to?  And frankly, I’m at a loss.  **

Review by Pete Whalley



On Sunday 28 July 2019, David Randall celebrated his 600th show. “Assume The Position” started in June 2007 on UK City Radio before transferring a year later to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio. The show includes tracks played on the first show plus Upton Blues Festival highlights, new music and the regular features “Live Legends” and “Anniversary Rock” which this week celebrates the Island Records label 60th anniversary.

Listen in to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio…
Click the appropriate icons at the top of the page.

Power Plays w/c 19 August (Mon-Fri)

BEFORE FIRE Dead Eyes (indie)
SCOTT & MARIA Never Give Up (indie)
CORELEONI Queen Of Hearts (AFM Records)
BERLIN Transcendance (Cleopatra Records)
PHIL CAMPBELL These Old Boots (Nuclear Blast)
PHIL LANZON Blue Mountain (Phil Lanzon Ditties/Cargo Records UK)

Featured Albums w/c 19 August (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 SOLEIL MOON Warrior (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 ROXY BLUE Roxy Blue (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 DREW HOLCOMB & THE NEIGHBORS Dragons (Magnolia Music/Thirty Tigers)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

JAMES STEVENSON Everything’s Getting Closer To Being Over (2013)



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