Static Roots Festival takes off

sr posterBack in the sixties Immediate Records (home to The Small Faces, The Nice, Humble Pie and others) had a neat little slogan which went, Happy To Be Part of The Industry of Human Happiness. Reason I mention this is because I recently had spent some time in the company of a German friend of Blabber’n’Smoke who just about epitomises that epithet especially with regard to music. Dietmar Leibecke is a tall (very tall) and wonderful human being who may be known to several readers given his habit of turning up all over the place whenever there’s some good music to be heard.

Dietmar lives in Mullhelm An Der Rhur in Germany and for the past ten years he’s been promoting Americana and roots music in Germany with a host of house concerts along with booking tours for bands we’re all familiar with. Last year Dietmar ventured into the dangerous waters of setting up a music festival which he called Static Roots. Held in Oberhausen it was a two day event that featured Leeroy Stagger (Canada), The Wynntown Marshals (Scotland), John Blek & The Rats (Ireland), Malojian (Northern-Ireland), Meena Cryle & The Chris Fillmore Band (Austria), The Midnight Union Band (Ireland), and Anna Mitchell (Ireland). By all accounts, it was a great time and he’s set to do it again this year. Intrigued by the thought of setting up such a venture from scratch Blabber’n’Smoke wanted to hear more so we spoke to Dietmar to learn his story.

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The first Static Roots was held last year. Can you tell us a little bit about how and why you did it?

Well last year was a year of anniversaries. First off, there was my Silver Wedding anniversary and it was also my 50th birthday. It was also ten years since we had started to promote shows and on a personal note it was five years since I had received a kidney transplant so there was a lot to celebrate. My wife and I wanted to do something special and we decided on the idea of setting up a small festival. Where I stay there wasn’t anything like that going on and I was completely influenced by the Kilkenny Roots Festival. They always have a great line up and it’s so much fun. Wherever you go you see great acts and it’s not just the music but it’s the people as well, a real community. So we were thinking about that and decided to go for it and we got in touch with some of our friends in the music business and asked them to come over and play and we got a great response. Artists we had met in Kilkenny like John Blek and The Rats, Malojian and The Midnight Union Band agreed to come and then my friends from Scotland, The Wynntown Marshals signed up. And then there was Leeroy Stagger from Canada who has become one of my best friends, I’ve known him for around ten years now. The one act we got who I didn’t know personally was Daniel Romano. I’d seen him live and thought he was great but in the end his satnav took him to another town called Oberhausen which was near Munich. He called and offered to come the next day but by then the festival was closing so we didn’t get to see him.

It sounds like quite an adventure but you’ve been promoting shows for around ten years now. How did that start?

It was another birthday, my 40th. Steve Wynn has been my biggest influence since I was young, his album with The Dream Syndicate, Days Of Wine and Roses was really the first record that blew me over and made me think that this was music that was made for me. It opened up a completely new world for me and it’s still one of the best albums I’ve ever listened to.  So I got in touch with Steve and asked him to play my 40th birthday and he said yes! He came with the Miracle Three and put on a fantastic show and that’s really how we got into the business of putting on shows. When Steve came over he introduced me to the idea of doing house concerts.  I hadn’t  really heard of the concept up till then but then I looked it up and found a couple of American bands who were open to playing house concerts so a little while later I invited Leeroy Stagger over to play our house. He was the first artist to play there and it was just so touching and so intense so we’ve continued to do it and so far we’ve hosted about 50 house concerts. We started off with solo acoustic shows but then we had Easton Stagger Phillips (Tim Easton, Leeroy Stagger and Evan Phillips) come to play and we had to get a PA system for that. From then we went on to have full bands like Danny & The champions of The World and The Wynntown Marshals playing in our house. I think that Leeroy has been here the most, about five times. It’s great fun and nowadays I occasionally book tours in Germany for bands I want to see in my house. The house concerts, even with a full band are very intimate and it’s great to see the audience being so attentive and the acts can take their time and tell their stories behind the songs, it’s so much more than playing in a bar for them.

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So how many people would you normally have at a house concert?

Well they always sell out and we have space for around 65 people there but it depends on the size of the band. If it’s a six-piece band we only let in 60 people but for a smaller band we can squeeze in maybe five more people.

You must have quite a large room

It’s not so big but we have a couple of beer benches, you know the traditional lederhosen and sauerkraut German beer benches so we have space for about 30 to 35 seats with the rest of the audience standing at the back of the room.

OK, you’ve got a full band, amplified, playing in your house. What do the neighbours think?

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They are all invited! Last summer we had John Blek and The Rats over and it was loud but it was so hot we had to open all the windows and leave the door open and some folk came over to see what the noise was and ended up staying. We converted a few people that night and made some new friends. Sometimes it’s been so loud I’ve wondered if the police might show up but so far so good.

 

Back to Static Roots. Can you tell us a little more about that?

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It’s held in an old zinc factory which has been converted into a theatre. It was built I think in 1904 and it’s a lovely building with old brick walls and some of the original fixtures. It looks really cool with huge windows, a big stage and a great sound and a great crew. It’s a nice big venue with a beer garden out front, burger stands and all and it really worked well last year. It holds around 300 people which I thought was a good number. I didn’t want to go for a bigger place because I knew it would be hard to fill it. Again I was thinking of Kilkenny where I think the biggest venue holds around 400.

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Have you gone again for acts you know?

Danny and The Champions of The World, Peter Bruntnell and John Blek are good friends but we’ve also got David Corley who I saw last year at Kilkenny and Erin Rea and The Meanwhiles, both of them making their first appearances in Germany.

Hopefully this is not an insensitive question but do you expect to make any money from this?

Well last year, because it really was a celebration of our wedding anniversary and such it was an invitation only event in the main. We did spread the word around friends in the music world and asked them to donate to a fund we had set up for Doctors Without Borders (AKA Médecins Sans Frontières) so there was no ticket fee, just a donation and we collected around 9,000 Euros for the campaign. We covered the artists’ fees and the cost of the venue out of our own pocket. This year it’s a public event and we’re selling tickets for the show and so far it’s going fairly well with more than half the tickets already gone. We are getting some press coverage and we’ll see how it goes but I’m sure that the festival is going to be a success some day along the line. It will need some time to get established but it was so much fun last year and the audience was great. We had a bunch of folk who came over from Kilkenny, the Kilkenny Roots Family we called them and there’s a great bunch of Scottish people who came over as well. A lot of people I had met at shows before, there were so many friends there. It’s quite funny but also important that wherever you travel music wise you meet people, like minded people and you keep in touch and it’s such a great community of open minded people interested in music, peace, love. I love the idea of music bringing people together, I’ve been to Rambling Roots in High Wycombe, March into Pitlochry and Kilkenny Roots so far this year and I can keep all those memories for ever and I hope that Static Roots will be as good. I’m going to have the time of my life at it even if it’s been lots of work in setting it up but once the last note is played I’m going  to say, “Man, this was brilliant” and then it will be looking forward to next year’s festival.

Static Roots takes place on the 9th and 10th June at Oberheim  with the following line up

David Corley

Peter Bruntnell

John Blek & The Rats

Danny & The Champions Of The World

Erin Rae & The Meanwhiles

Torpus & The Art Directors

David Ford

Nadine Khouri

Jack Marks

Tickets are available here. It’s only a hop and a skip away.

Festival pictures by Klaas Guchelaar

 

 

 

Maiden Voyage Recording Company

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All aboard the Skylark…

It’s not every day that a new record company starts up. Even rarer when you hear that the cigar chomping head honchos behind the desk are folk you know. Maiden Voyage Recording Company is the brainchild of Danny George Wilson of Danny And The Champions Of The World (firm favourites of Blabber’n’Smoke and probably the best live band in the UK these days) and legendary PR man Del Day (who is responsible for alerting Blabber’n’Smoke to many of the artists we review). With their very own maiden voyage set for launch this week as they release their first album,  Blabber’n’Smoke spoke to Del and Danny about the label.

First of all. Why set up your own record label? Aren’t there enough to go around and surely it’s a major task.

Del: Well I’ve worked in all just about every aspect of the music industry over the last 20 odd years, retail, marketing, distribution, PR, promoting and run a booking agency.  So it was only a matter of time I guess before I dipped my toe into the dangerous waters of running a record label. e4c8778786e5b91f46063c4602c6ebd5_400x400

Danny: I love making music because I love records and it seems like another great adventure to be a record company guy too. The best thing about finding great records is sharing them with your friends and this is all just an extension of that. danny-champ-in-warren-tee-shirt

Del: I’ve known Danny  for a few years now. Initially as a fan of his band which then developed into a great friendship. We both share an insatiable love of music and spend most of our time together either listening to records, sharing tracks and just chewing the fat I guess. So starting a label together seemed both hugely exciting and, in a weird way, the obvious thing to do.  Maiden Voyage Recording Company was conceived over many drinks at The Betsey Trotwood in London on a rainy Wednesday night.  We see the whole venture as an expansion of those drink and music fuelled nights, a way of sharing our love of music from all genres with likeminded people and musical explorers.

Danny:  When I was a teenager me and my pals would get on the bus to Beanos’ record shop in Croydon. We’d spend all our money and then read the liner notes and credits in those gatefold sleeves all the way back. I’d buy anything that James Burton played on or anything on the Stax labeI. I went through fads that covered everything from Delta Blues to Prog to Hip Hop to Jazz to Country music, my mind was literally crammed with useless but brilliant information. It still is although it’s just a little harder to summon nowadays! Later I worked in a famous London second hand record shop and played poker with my work mates deep into the night trying to win more staff vouchers to spend on that Big Youth or Big Black album…good times.

I’m presuming that you’ve named the label after the Herbie Hancock album of the same name given its seagoing theme? 71xlqirvzyl-_sl1300_

Del:  Indeed we did. We are both huge fans, well jazz fans in general

And all set to sail this Friday with your first release?

Del: Yes. The label’s first record, Henry Senior Jr’s Plates Of Meat. It’s a wonderful instrumental pedal steel album that flits between country, jazz, funk and Allman Brothers’ jam band wonderment. Henry is of course the pedal steel wizard for The Champs so it was the obvious first release for us both in terms of working with musicians who are friends and musicians we both respect and love. ed7b30_241646c3551142ac890d5843cb2a2de2mv2_d_2000_2000_s_2

I’ve had the privilege of hearing Plates of Meat and it’s really rather good. Funky pedal steel driven tunes that reminded me of bands like The Meters and Barefoot Jerry, two bands that probably aren’t too often lumped together. Wonderful as it is it’s hard to imagine that a record like this would get much attention from more established labels despite an obvious audience of music obsessive’s like us who can appreciate the album itself and its antecedents. I’m wondering what you have up your sleeve for future releases?

Del: It’s hard to say really.  Danny and I drew inspiration from the likes of Light In The Attic and Honest Jon’s, record labels who consistently release albums that excite and surprise. Those labels appear free form any sort of genre categorisation, and we like that. We will be releasing albums and hopefully singles for all genres in all sorts of formats. We will be doing a 7″ singles club next year and we’re also looking to release some old reissues that we feel have laid dormant for too long. We do have two definite releases, both ‘concept’ albums if I can use that phrase. First off there’s I Want Blood by the London-based band The Suburban Dirts. It’s an ambitious piece set in Kentucky circa 1800 that borrows from the legend of The Harpe Brothers who are infamous for being America’s first serial killers.  It’s just stunning. We will also be releasing Moondogs And Mad Dogs by Donald Byron Howard Wheatley, an album that’s been 15 years in the making.

To be honest the love of music in all its weird and wonderful forms is what keeps me alive and it’s also the one and only guiding factor as to how we want to run the label. It really is a label of love and one that we hope people will keep an eye out for. MVRC will hopefully become a mark of quality, that’s the aim. The first three records already feel like dusty relics drawn from some second hand bin and Danny and I love that! 

Danny: And we should say that Maiden Voyage Recording Co’s online shop is now up and running! You can pick up copies of ‘Plates of Meat’ on both 180g gatefold vinyl and CD or one of our super cool t-shirts!!

As Danny says, the shop is now open while Henry Senior Jr’s album has been picking up airplay already before its release on Friday. Blabber’n’Smoke certainly wishes Del and Danny well in this venture and we look forward to hearing what comes next. You can keep up the news on their website here

And here’s a taster from Henry Senior Jr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

iMTV: Rob Ellen’s independence Music TV

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How best to support your favourite acts and artists? I’m sure that Blabber’n’Smoke readers do more than their fair share, buying records, going to gigs, funding Kickstarters and such.  Now music promoter Rob Ellen, who is based in the Highlands, has a new concept which he announced on July 4th, Independence Day of course for those in The States.

To call Rob a music promoter is to sell him short. His Medicine Show umbrella covers all sorts of activity. He promotes artists, organises tours and house concerts, has a syndicated radio show and an online webzine carrying album and live concert reviews. In addition, he is one-half of The Slim Panatellas playing tea chest bass with cigar box guitar genius Don Jack. Now Rob has set out on perhaps his most ambitious project, iMTV, an innovative attempt to showcase music, offer folk an opportunity to become a patron and hopefully put some money into the pockets of the featured artists. It’s fully explained on his website but essentially Rob is setting up a music video channel which will carry music content such as tour documentaries, streamed concerts and the like, all unique and filmed and recorded by Rob. To facilitate this he has vowed to spend the next year touring the UK converted Hymer Mercedes motor home which is now a mobile TV studio, The Medicine Music Moose Mobile.

Rob Ellen Photograph by Gair Fraser

It’s early days. The 4th July declaration was the curtain raiser for a fund raising drive asking for a minimum £10 donation for a year’s subscription to iMTV once it’s up and running. In addition musicians will have a members page on the iMTV site and will receive 50% of  subsequent subscriptions made through their page. The initial fund raising page is here. It’s a bold venture so Blabber’n’Smoke spoke to Rob about the idea, his hopes and expectations and we started by asking him why he was doing this.

It’s a couple of things. I got frustrated sending out my artists’ CDs to DJ’s and writers. Many of them are good enough to play some songs or write about the music but it’s getting harder and harder to establish an artist, it’s the same worthy crew who play the songs. There’s a lot of resources thrown into trying to get on the radio and I thought, well why not set up a TV station?  If we can attract people to that it will be a whole lot better than just one or two radio shows playing the music. And I also wanted to come up with a plan that can reward the artists themselves, affiliated artists will get 50% of any profits that come in.

Why do you think a TV concept will be more effective than a radio play?

I think that if you offer music in a video in these days of instant interaction then people will be more likely to remember it. I want to capture a moment and then share it with people on the video channel and also via social media.

You’ve got a mobile TV studio which you’ll be using to record shows and events.

Yes, I’m out on the road right now, I’ll be doing this for the next year, collecting content, spreading awareness and trying to raise the funds we need. So the Moose mobile will touring the country, filming and recording and we’ll be trying out the results initially on the House Concert TV channel.

I’ve given myself a year to see if we can get fully funded to see if we can do it properly. There’s a fundraising page which has started off really well but I need to keep up the momentum. So far it’s mostly folk I know that have contributed but I’m hoping that word will spread. I hope that people will see it as an investment of sorts, it’s only £10 I’m looking for and for that tenner anyone who contributes might eventually make some money if it all works out.

So what’s the current state of play with you on the road?

Right now I’m on the road with Chuck Hawthorne who’s on his first tour of the UK. He’s playing gigs, house concerts and festivals and I’m recording and filming all of it. I’m also going to try some live streams directly from the Moose mobile which will go on to Facebook, we’ll call it Chuck in the truck! It’s great to be starting off with Chuck as he’s got such an interesting back-story and hopefully we’ll get some footage of him recounting it and it will all go up on the Moose Mobile Facebook page. At the end of the tour I’m hoping to edit what we’ve got into a documentary. I think that Chuck is as important an artist as I’ve worked with for a long while and also it will be nice to get a capture of the current UK Americana scene as seen through his eyes.

Will you plan to do more documentaries once iMTV is up and running?

I think it will be more live streams, bang, bang, as it happens, captured warts and all allowing you to interact with the artist as it happens and then archived so that you can revisit it, share it and such. As the project progresses I’m hoping to install cameras in a couple of our regular concert spaces which will allow us to edit some concerts afterwards for a really professional showpiece which will be available to watch time and again.

So at the moment we are trying it out, getting to know the equipment and seeing what we can with it so that when iMTV is good to go we will be up and running from day one.  It’s a steep learning curve but I’ve got a team of folk back home helping me set it up.  This time next year we hope to have enough money to man it all and to entertain a target of 60,000 subscribers.

So if you want to get in on the ground floor you can send in your tenner to Rob’s Go Fund Me page. In addition it would be a tremendous help if folk can share this using the links we’ve included or by just sharing and mentioning this page. It’s a vision we can all participate in after all.

 

 

Peter Bruntell tour dates

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Peter Bruntnell is heading out throughout July with band in tow for what promise to be some spectacular shows. Fresh from his recent jaunt to Ireland and what was reported as a barnstorming performance at Maverick Festival Bruntnell is riding high on the very postitive reviews of his current album, Nos Da Comrade, a recent Mojo album of the month. Described by The Guardian as “an alt-country genius,” over the course of 11 albums this Welshman has been a flag carrier for home grown rock that picks up from where the likes of The Byrds and Crazy Horse left off. Blabber’n’Smoke reviewed Nos Da Comrade here while Americana UK gave the album a rare 10/10 review.

Peter has very kindly offered one pair of tickets for any of these shows for Blabber’n’Smoke to hand out. If you want them just email us at paulk.blabbernsmoke at gmail.com with Bruntnell in the subject line and tell us who was the inspiration with his bully boy tactics for Peter’s song, Mr. Sunshine. Please include contact details and the show you wish to attend.  The tour starts on the 14th July so the competition closes on Tuesday 12th. In the meantime here’s an example of the man in action.

Hannah Aldridge/ Lilly Hiatt

 

Had to make some space to mention that Lilly Hiatt and Hannah Aldridge are swinging through Scotland this week with appearances in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.  Over the past 10 days they’ve been trekking around England to rave reviews, Three Chords and The Truth saying that the pair of them “play music of the soul in a way that captivates a tuned-in audience leaving a trail of awe, satisfaction and belief that straight from the gut music is full of intense appeal”. That straight from the gut comment apparently comes from Aldridge’s description of her music and anyone who has heard her album, Razor Wire will know that she can deliver tough and bluesy rock songs as well as laid back acoustic numbers.

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Aldridge is the daughter of famed country writer Walt Aldridge and her companion on this tour is another scion of a notable musician, in this case John Hiatt. This tour is Lilly Hiatt’s first time over here and she has a new album which was released at the beginning of this month. Like Aldridge Hiatt is no stranger to rock music although in her case on Royal Blue she tends more towards the indie side of things, one description of the album saying it’s  ” a glorious tumble of influences – surf rock, Smiths vibes, Laurel Canyon twang and jangle, Sonic Youth flatline and Britpop flourishes”. A fair enough description although it doesn’t really tell you what the album sounds like. It doesn’t mention for example the excellent pedal steel on Jesus Would’ve Let Me Pick The Restaurant with its sly references to Lynyrd Skynyrd. From the low rumble of the opening song Far Away to the closing title song Hiatt does ramble across various genres but her fine voice and sharp writing steers her her firmly along American highways and byways. Off Track’s guitars buzz like a swarm of angry wasps, Too Bad veers towards Southern Gothic and Heart Attack is wrapped up in a new wave keyboard bubble.

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The Scottish shows are as follows. Check the links for tickets.

June 21 in Edinburgh  at The Voodoo Rooms

June 22 in Aberdeen  at The Blue Lamp

June 23 in Glasgow  at Woodend Bowling & Lawn Tennis Club

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Rain. DH Lawrence & The Vaudeville Skiffle Show and Eugenie Lee

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A few months ago I reviewed an album for Americana UK by DH Lawrence & The Vaudeville Skiffle Show, a band portraying themselves as a skiffle unit from Nottingham. I didn’t really buy into the skiffle schtick finding them somewhat more sophisticated, another fine example of home grown bands who are really grabbing the Americana folk roots nettle. This is obvious on their latest endeavour, a new song that’s accompanied by a very fine video that uses the imagery of Korean/Australian artist Eugenie Lee. Lee is a multi media artist who “constructs imaginative psychodramas around the unquantifiable and irrational nature of pain” and the band contacted her for permission to use some of her images and films to illustrate Black Rain, their latest song which uses the title as a metaphor for pain. The result is an imaginative and visually striking film, polymorphous fluids, barbed wire punishment machines (shades of Kafka here) and dramatic tableaux, all from Lee’s oeuvre are scored to a song that’s evidence of this “skiffle” band’s progression.

The song itself opens with spooky singing saw and ominous vocals before the band kick in with a low-slung groove, the bass rumbling and fiddle skirling. There’s a menacing instrumental towards the end where chaos threatens, the guitars meandering, the fiddle and saw squalling and squealing before they settle back into the chorus. It’s a fine performance and will surely please folk who like The Handsome Family or Hillfolk Noir.

You can see the video below and the good news is that DH Lawrence & The Vaudeville Show are bringing their show to Glasgow on 6th July at Nice & Sleazy for what promises to be a fine night.

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Prisoners at Pittsburgh Institution Release a New Song, “Selah” by David Corley

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Presumably most folk are aware of John Prine’s song, Christmas In Prison, a song that regularly does the rounds at this time of year. It’s a fine song but I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t reflect the reality of being incarcerated at this time of year. Criminal sentencing is a hot potato at the best of times; there’s the “you done the crime so do the time” and the “hang ’em’ high” brigades that would rather lock folk up and throw away the key. However there’s plenty of evidence that rehabilitation rather than pure punishment reaps its rewards. Prison can be like a university. Inmates can learn from their peers, new tricks and ways of doing wrong but it can also offer opportunities previously denied to them particularly as race and poverty are prime indicators of one’s likelihood of getting banged up.

Famously, Johnny Cash performed to inmates in San Quentin and Folsom but music can be used as a rehabilitation tool also and producer Chris Brown, recently mentioned on Blabber’n’Smoke for his work with David Corley and Suzanne Jarvie, has been working with inmates of the Pittsburgh Institution in Ontario for some time on a project called Pros and Cons Music Mentoring Program. The results are to heard on an album called Postcards From The County which you can download here. Brown has talked about the experience here and this week has unveiled the latest fruit from the enterprise, a song written by David Corley and played and sung by the inmates.
Corley, currently riding high on end of year lists with his excellent album, Available Light, has this to say,

It was a real honor, for me, to have these guys, in prison, taking their own time to do something special with this song that I wrote. And this is a very personal song to me. I could hear, right away, from the first recordings, the genuine care and effort they were putting into it. I originally gave this song to Chris, to record on his own record, and he, in turn gave it away to them. That’s just Chris, and these fellas. This song’s free, and for anyone and everyone….a prayer and a song of life and love and time passed.”

Cast away any prejudice and have a listen to the song. It’s delivered with feeling and a warmth that surely proves that music can bridge any gap, can offer hope to those who had no hope and it certainly justifies Brown’s desire to maintain some form of rehab for these prisoners despite budget cuts.