Peter Bruntnell/The Wynntown Marshals. @Soundsin TheSuburbs. 13th Note. Glasgow. Friday 2nd September.

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It’s been some time since Peter Bruntnell ventured north of the border with a band and news of this gig had veteran supporters salivating at the prospect. Bruntnell, hailed by The Guardian recently as an “alt country genius” in their cult heroes column is a superb performer solo, his songs, described in that same Guardian article as “classically constructed, melodically rich, lyrically ingenious and emotionally, intellectually affecting…,” delivered by his gentle voice and guitar playing always win over audiences. The prospect of a band show and in the sweaty and confined cellar of The 13th Note however was a dream come true for several of the audience as Bruntnell and his band line ups have been known to achieve heights  that recall the best of the crunchier power pop rockers and even Neil Young’s psychedelic guitar work outs. Tonight he and his band did not disappoint. The four piece (Bruntnell on guitar, David Little, guitar, Peter Noone, bass and Mick Clews on drums) stormed through a set that showcased several songs from the excellent Nos Da Comrade and cherry picked several highlights from the back catalogue. The intimacy of the small venue (a shame really as Bruntnell truly deserves a larger audience) allowed the crowd an experience that was at times transcendental, a rock’n’roll nirvana.

With the guitars cranked up they launched into the chunky rhythm of Ghost Dog with Little already burning on his solos before a wall of sound was launched from the stage on the perfect power pop of  Fishing The Floodplain, gears shifting smoothly leading up to a glorious chiming conclusion. London Clay, a song that was only briefly available via the ‘net continued in a similar vein, glorious harmonies and sun dappled pop with chiming guitars recalling the likes of The Lemonheads at their best but this was topped by the guitar refrains of Long Way Down From A Cloud which recalled The Byrds’ reappropriation of Bach.  All glorious so far  but the band were well able to swerve into darker territory with Where The Snakes Hang Out a powerful slow groove and the brooding epic of Yuri Gargarin a slow burning extravaganza of guitar workouts and pedal effects that was hypnotic in its burnished twists and turns, Bruntnells’ whispy vocals floating over the mesh of amplified strings and the propulsive rhythm section.

While well able to channel the guitar carnage of Neil Young and Crazy Horse Bruntnell is a master of melodic rock displayed tonight on the brisk delivery of City Star  and on two  songs which are perhaps his best known, songs which probably are responsible for his inclusion in that  alt country label mentioned by that Guardian article. Here Come The Swells and By The Time My Head Gets To Phoenix are superior examples of UK Americana and tonight this was amplified by the inclusion of Iain Sloan (from support band The Wynntown Marshals) on pedal steel adding another dimension to the band. Hearing Sloan step into the shoes of Eric Heywood was a bonus, his pedal steel woven into the golden tapestry of both songs as Bruntnell took the opportunity to offer some pithy comments on Swells while Phoenix was just majestic, the guitars racked up for an astonishing finish. Coming to a conclusion there was a fine display of sonic wizardry (replacing the studio sitar effects) in the run up to Cold Water Swimmer which metamorphed into a shimmering white noise barrage before the punk infused thrash of Peak Operational Condition saw the band exit on a high.

The conditions were right, the band was right and the audience were rightly rewarded for their recognition of one of our “unknown heroes.” Do spread the word.

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There was a fine bonus tonight in the shape of the supporting act, a two man version of The Wynntown Marshals featuring that man Iain Sloan on pedal steel and acoustic guitar with singer Keith Benzie, also on guitar. While the full Marshals line up is a clamorous vision of high end rock and country tonight the pair stripped back some of their songs, sieving the nuggets from their usual melodic mayhem, allowing Benzie full accord as an excellent singer and lyricist. Moby Doll carried a sense of ennui heightened by the pedal steel stylings while Low Country Comedown was a creamy country laden ballad and The Submariner was given a fine country lope. Curtain Call saw Sloan switch to acoustic guitar for this poignant tale and its deadly denouement, deliciously delivered by the pair. Their rendition of Red Clay Hill really allowed the lyrics to shine as it came across like an earthbound version of Jimmy Dale Gilmore’s Did you ever see Dallas from a DC-9 at night? while their closing song The End Of The Golden Age was just sublime, Benzie in fine vocal form with Sloan harmonising excellently on a song that is on a par with the Jayhawks.

More pictures from the show here

Jim Dead Pray For Rain album launch. 13th Note, Glasgow. 4th December 2015

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When Blabber’n’Smoke reviewed Jim Dead‘s new album  Pray For Rain  a few weeks ago we called him a “shamanistic weatherman.” We was only joking, honestly, but of course the album launch took place on one of the filthiest nights of the year, gale force winds blowing horizontal sheets of rain that numbed your cranial nerves. Think his next album should be called “Here Comes The Heatwave.” Anyhoo (as Mr. Dead likes to say) a grand crowd donned appropriate gear and headed to the basement of the 13th Note, attracted perhaps by the prospect of seeing three fine bands and getting a copy of the new disc all for the princely sum of a fiver, one bright spot on such a dreicht nicht.

The bloody weather actually meant your intrepid reviewer missed the opening act, Traquair & the Tranquilizers although verbal reports from the early birds were all positive. We were in time to be stunned (in a nice way) by the sonic ferocity of Dog Moon Howl, Craig Hughes’ power trio, who slammed into a set of bone crushing psychedelic blues wails. Like an early ZZ Top prowling in werewolf mode Hughes’ guitar at times sounded like a jet airplane taking off with Blues Like A Hammer the standout here although their version of Hendrix’s Manic Depression was just about as close you could get these days to seeing the man himself. I didn’t see any ears bleeding but that’s not to say it didn’t happen. A fine example of the visceral power of rock music and recommended if you want your Mojo recharged.

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Last time we saw Jim Dead playing with The Doubters there was a Crazy Horse vibe about them. Tonight it’s a different set of Doubters and the dynamic compass points more towards the primal rock vibe of bands like the MC5 or The 13th Floor Elevators. The songs are relatively short, no lengthy guitar wanderings, instead shards of notes splintering the beat. They opened with the opening song on the album, Wooden Kimono, its chunky rhythm spellbinding, a revamped Redbone ghost dance. Bone Blue Moon, an older song, followed with a radical makeover. Previously an exploration of the guitar’s meandering possibilities (as on Neil Young’s Zuma) tonight it was spikier with the guitars exploding instead of wandering. May The Road Rise was a low riding menace of a song, liquid guitars at times recalling Television’s punk plasticity while Lovesick Blues hammered in with Dead and The Doubters sounding like a more unhinged version of Roky Erickson and his Aliens. Some oldies (a fantastic Jim Langstrom Must Die) and more from the new album proved that Dead has the potential to move from the pool of local talent into open waters.

 

Jim Dead and The Doubters album launch, 13th Note, June 2nd.

Jim Dead comes from Deadsville. An imagined place, more in the mind than on the map. Occasional visitors to this shadowland include Jim White, Hank Williams, Jason Molina, The Drive By Truckers and even Neil Young. Here the music is slow and thick, churning like the Mississippi, rich and full bodied. Jim Dead has captured this on his latest release; Ten Fires and tonight unveiled it in a hot cellar to an appreciative Glasgow crowd. This was possibly a unique event as the Doubters consist of the musicians who recorded the album with Dead but in their non Deadsville lives they all have other gigs. Reconvened for the album launch it would be a pity if they fade away as they conjured up a blissful, noisy wall of sound. Consisting of Dead on guitar and vocals, Craig Hughes on guitar and the Duffin brothers, James and Tommy on bass and drums they punched their way through several songs from the album. The twin guitars cranked up an almighty mess of sound with Craig Hughes sparking off of Dead’s solid rhythm on a sound that was reminiscent of Crazy Horse or Magnolia Electric Co. Wading through lengthy renditions of Jim Langstrom Must Die, Bone Blue Moon and Mean eyed River Snake there were several spine tingling moments wrung from Hughes’ Gibson but Dead’s knack for a well written song with strong hooks meant that this never descended into jamdom. The band ended the set with epic renditions of Untitled and The Hallelujah Revolver. Untitled started off with an Iberian Miles Davis feel before a psychedelic tinge crept in with Hughes playing arabesque lines but the closing song trumped all before it with the Duffin bothers in particular adding an almighty edge to a powerful and inspired performance. Dead hollered as if his life depended on it. A great end to the show.
Mention must be made of the support acts. Glasgow duo The Colts delivered a fine set of acoustic country tinged songs with a Ryan Adams/Keef Richards flavour while Craig Hughes showed us his day job playing powerful bottleneck acoustic blues. A bear of a man he can be ferocious on the guitar but his bottleneck style and use of sustain reminded one of Zoot Horn Rollo’s instructions from the good Captain. His song The TR7’s Have All Gone to Heaven was a particular crowd pleaser