Quick plays: THE STRUTS, CORINNE WEST, PETE LASHLEY

THE STRUTS Everybody Wants

THE STRUTS Everybody Wants

I’ve always had a weakness for camp, bubblegum rock.  It’s a long line that stretches back to the Sweet, through Queen, and perhaps most recently evident in The Darkness.

Derby four-piece, The Struts are the latest to throw their hat into that ring, and in frontman Luke Spiller they have the perfect androgynous lead.  He may not be gay, but with his eyeliner, pout and limp flick of the wrist he sure knows how to play to the camera.  And he’s a pretty decent singer too – Mike Oldfield, no less, recruited him to sing on his 2014 album Man On The Rocks.

But one has to question the substance of The Struts.  Spiller apes Mercury vocally, and even goes as far as wearing Zandra Rhodes-designed batwings (circa Queen II).  If a film was ever made of Mercury’s life he would fit the role like a glove.

The other matter is the material.  Everybody Wants was originally released in 2014, and this 2016 reissue – following successful touring in the States – sees three tracks dropped from the original release, with five new tracks dropped in alongside remasters and re-recordings.

And when you look at the writing and production credits, you find some real heavyweights of the pop industry lurking behind the scenes.  The fact that bassist Jed Elliot is dating Little Mix’s Jade Thirlwall is a further indication of the circles the band frequent.

So the buzz around The Struts isn’t quite the indie rock ‘n’ roll fairy-tale story you might imagine.  In fact, it looks to be a carefully orchestrated marketing strategy.  But hey, that’s what pop music is all about, and Mike Chapman – in his time – produced some of the best pop/rock albums – ever.

Everybody Wants hits all the right buttons for sing along radio play, and if there’s one thing pop music is supposed to be, it’s fun.  And The Struts are certainly that.  ****

Review by Pete Whalley

PETE LASHLEY Magic Corner

You’d perhaps expect a Lake District based singer/songwriter to be a little more ‘folkie’, but multi -instrumentalist singer/songwriter Pete Lashley, with nine albums to his name, manages to cover a wide variety of styles on Magic Corner.

The opener, ‘Gladstone Street’, sounds like something more befitting a Madchester songsmith, and ‘More Is Never Is Enough’ – a soft shoe shuffle, pays homage to the Beatles.  With Lashley (vocals, guitars, bass and percussion), supported just by Andy Smith on drums and percussion, Magic Corner is, pretty much, a one man show and representative his live performances.  And it’s a virtuous offering – echoes of the classic folk from the likes of Lindisfarne on ‘Sleepwalking Emma’, in complete contrast to the jaunty rock ‘n’ roll of ‘Laughter’, and the dreamily laid back ’76 It Was Hot’.

A prolific performer, playing over 150 gigs each year and routinely found performing in pubs around The Lakes, it’s easy to see how he’s managed to sell over 6000 albums just from gigging.  A troubadour in the truest sense and the perfect accompaniment to a couple of Lakeland brews after a day on the peaks and fells.  ***

Review by Pete Whalley

CORINNE WEST Starlight Highway

You’re unlikely to hear a more gentle and laid back folk / singer songwriter album in 2016 than Starlight Highway by Californian songstress Corrine West – a singer widely recognised, including by Whispering Bob, as possessing the voice of an angel.

Her first completely self-produced record Starlight Highway continues her collaboration with delta blues and jazz artist Kelly Joe Phelps.  The pair recorded and toured as a duo for two years and he features heavily in the song writing, on guitar and playing the Simon to West’s Garfunkel.

If Alecia Moore (Pink)’s 2014 folk release with Canadian musician-singer-songwriter Dallas Green, (City And Colour), Rose Ave., under the recording pseudo name of You+Me wetted your appetite for sparse folk where the songs and the singers take precedence, then Starlight Highway takes a further step along that road.

And while their previous outing (Magnetic Skyline, 2013) was, like You+Me, two voices and two guitars, Starlight Highway’s sound is subtly padded out by an assortment of talented players lending a rhythm section, piano, B3 Hammond organ, accordion, and mandolins.  But don’t be fooled – this is all about the singers and the song.

It’s not going to be to everyone’s taste – my better half pronounced it ‘dreary’ – and it’s a long way from rock ‘n’ roll.  But it is undeniably beautifully put together.  ***

Review by Pete Whalley

DAZE OF GRACE Rumours Of Glory

A Canadian family trio – Sharon Grace Routley – singer, songs and acoustic guitar, Jubal Daniel Routley – electric guitar, and Warren Routley – hand drums and percussion, who serve up their own brand of ethereal, acoustic rock.

Playing together since the mid noughties, in and around British Columbia, their sets have comprised about 50% originals, and 50% of covers by such artists as Bob Dylan, Buffalo Springfield, Pink Floyd, U2.

Their first releases have been a long time coming.  The tapes of recordings made in 2003 went missing.  Another set was recorded in 2004, and more over the next five years leading to a trilogy of albums in 2015 and 2016 – Grace, Love Never Sleeps, and Rumours Of Glory.

With an echoey, open mic, production Rumours is a gentle acoustic set – not dissimilar in style or delivery to early Suzanne Vega, with Sharon’s vocals and acoustic guitar very much to the fore, punctuated by subtle and restrained lead guitar lines, and rootsy hand drums and percussion.

Perhaps, to the ear, more of a singer/songwriter offering, Rumours of Glory will appeal to those with a penchant for the acoustic early 1970s style of bands like CS&N and America.  Although the songwriting can only aspire to those lofty heights.  **1/2

Review by Pete Whalley

WILDFLOWER At The Station

Wildflower is a poor choice of band name given the myriad of derivations to be found on the web.  And not at all easy to find a signpost to www.wildflowertheband.com.

An indie soft rock group from San Jose, fronted by Tiffany Petrossi, and formed in 2015, Wildflower have an edgy, raw sound unusual in these days when most offerings are polished, polished, and then polished again.

As a result the band have an almost early punk edge to them – with Petrossi’s vocals having an almost Kirsty MacColl vibe.  With a line-up that includes violin and baritone ukulele, Wildflower may be onto something with their brand of ‘punk Americana’, and could fit well in the space occupied by The Coral and the likes.

But as ever, the matter of material is the deal breaker.  At The Station in turns lively and mournful – one of the standout tracks – ‘Glimpse’ – borrowing heavily – intentionally of otherwise on The Eagles’ ‘Hotel Californi’a.  It’s what you might describe as ‘fresh’, but the material isn’t really strong enough to generate sales significantly beyond post gig.  **1/2

Review by Pete Whalley

GRANDMA STRANGE Nightingale

An alternative rock/blues band based in Springfield, Missouri, Grandma Strange have their roots in the last 1960s, with vocalist/keyboardist Brooke Austen influenced by doomy and Gothically inclined music.

The band began as her solo project in 2010 before gradually morphing into a four-piece with Clinton Houseman (guitars), Ryan Wallace (bass), and Alisha Schroeder (drums) over the course of three years, their self-released debut album, ‘Highway Choir’, being in 2014.

An experimental outfit, writers Austen and Houseman contribute separate parts and ‘smash them together’, splicing parts of unfinished songs into a song in progress.  The result is an unusual melee that, when it gels with Austen’s compelling vocals is reminiscent of the rich experimentation of the rock scene in the late 1960s.

Uneasy, ghostly, yet strangely compelling, there is a certain charm about the set that’s difficult to pinpoint.  Perhaps it is the fact that no song sounds like another, the unexpected flights of vocal acrobatics as Austen whispers, whistles, warbles and wails, and the atmospheric jamming passages.

Or maybe it’s the organic nature of the material that, brought over here, and with a little refinement, could well see Grandma Strange giving other up and coming bands like Purson a run for their money.  But for now, they’re perhaps just a little too ‘off the wall’ for most tastes.  **1/2

Review by Pete Whalley


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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)

Power Plays w/c 28 October (Mon-Fri)

COLLATERAL Mr Big Shot (Roulette Media Records)
BABY HUSBAND Stop Thinking About Tomorrow (indie)
OF ALLIES Off The Map (indie)
EXPLORING BIRDSONG The River (indie)
MARISA AND THE MOTHS – Slave (indie)
CATTLE AND CANE I Wish I Knew Jesus (Like I Do)
KING VOODOO Creep (indie)

Featured Albums w/c 28 October (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 UNRULY CHILD Big Blue World (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 REDLINE Gods & Monsters (Escape Music)
14:00-16:00 WILDWOOD KIN (Silvertone/Sony)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

MAGNUM Sleepwalking (1992)



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