Blues

Elles Bailey and Demi Marriner

Elles Bailey and band, with special guest support from Demi Marriner, played an intimate seated audience gig at the Foxlowe Arts Centre on Friday the 15th of March, 2019 as part of her Road I Call Home tour.

First up onstage was Demi Marriner, playing solo and acoustic.

The name Demi Marriner is common tongue in the UK music scene, and for good reason.

Armed with a stack of notebooks, a head full of ideas and a collection of incredible jackets (plus a very fetching hat), Demi Marriner is a songwriter well worth keeping track of. Riding shotgun alongside her unique, outstanding songwriting are Demi’s powerful, emotive live performances. Demi’s confidence and professionalism on stage sparkle even more than her guitar strap and matching capo. Whether she’s pouring out her heart in an intimate solo shows, as was the case on Friday night at the Foxlowe, or kicking down the saloon doors with her incredible backing band, Demi knows how to impress.

After a successful debut EP ‘Tracks and Trails’, and follow up EP ‘Dandelion’ reaching numbers 1 and 2 respectively in the iTunes UK Country Album Charts, Demi is galloping forward with even stronger new material and a live EP.

The southwest songstress’ tassel boots have already graced many a great stage, including; The Symphony Hall supporting Rufus Wainwright, the main stage at Wychwood Festival, the Forest stage 2000 Trees, as well as being a regular at Cheltenham Jazz Festival. Demi has made her mark performing in the UK, Ireland, Europe and Canada, including support shows for Jon Gomm, Tia McGraff, BJ Barham (of American Aquarium), Cattle & Cane and Elles Bailey.

Demi’s passion and emotion is so contagious, it is almost impossible to not be captivated from the offset. We’re sure that we’ll see her again at the Foxlowe, and look forward to welcoming her back again in future.

Next onstage were Elles Bailey and her band – Joe Wilkins on guitar, Matthew Waer on bass, Jonny Henderson on organ, and Matthew Jones on drums.

Elles’ headwear game is also strong, as she was also wearing a hat.

They say you get a lifetime to write your first album, and the blink of an eye to make your second. Elles Bailey wins either way, which is why she’s ready to follow the widespread success of Wildfire with the stunningly mature and highly personal synopsis of a year that changed her life in forthcoming album ‘Road I Call Home’ out March 8th 2019

Back in September 2017, Wildfire broke down barriers to win rapturous praise right across the music media landscape. “Every genre,” says Bailey with a smile. “That was such a surprise. The title track, written with her band guitarist Joe Wilkins, also had Bailey racing from Spotify novice to nearly one million streams, while the album itself is close to two million, and still the playlists come in for it.

Now, the great news for all of Bailey’s ever-expanding army of admirers is that she is all set with her follow-up statement. Road I Call Home. Bailey made the sophomore record chiefly at Nashville’s Sound Emporium, with Brad Nowell sharing production duties with Steve Blackmon, but also cut two tunes for it with her own touring band at Mono Valley in Wales, including first single Medicine Man. It’s a remarkable companion to Wildfire that retains all of the fire of the debut set, but adds new maturity, perspective and downright soulfulness.

“Wildfire was written over five years,” says Elles, “Road I call Home was written over one. It tells the story of touring Wildfire, and how my life has changed since. I feel it delves deeper, and deals with loss, love, anger, determination and life on the road, with more than 200 gigs under my belt and many miles travelled.”

Like its chart-topping predecessor, Elles’ new album features co-writing contributions from high-calibre collaborators, including British hit-making legend and Ivor Novello Award winner Roger Cook, storied Memphis and Nashville giant Bobby Wood, as well as Dan Auerbach (of Akron, Ohio powerhouses The Black Keys) on the infectious ‘Little Piece of Heaven’.

Elles and band put in a storming performance, owning the small stage at the Foxlowe. That is, until the unheralded appearance of a spider temporarily halted the gig. Elles is legitimately terrified of spiders, and this one abseiled down from the ceiling right in front of her! Luckily, after telling the audience just how scared of spiders she is, the spider was humanely removed by bassist Matthew Waer and the show continued. Spiders don’t usually play a prominent part in proceedings at the Foxlowe, but perhaps we need to employ the services of a spider wrangler for future gigs, or Elles could specify one on her rider?

As with Demi, the Foxlowe looks forward to seeing Elles and band here again in future – sans spiders. Perhaps as part of the Leek Blues and Americana festival? We wish Demi, Elles and band well with the rest of the tour, and – as ever – thank everyone who turned out for the gig, not least those that travelled from far afield to support Demi and Elles.

Demi Marriner at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Demi Marriner at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Elles Bailey and band at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Elles Bailey and band at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Elles Bailey and band at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

All photos by Giles Metcalfe.

Rodney Branigan and the Deadbeat Damsels

‘First Class US import’ Rodney Branigan, supported by local live music scene stalwarts the Deadbeat Damsels, brought his unique brand of ‘Full Contact Folk Music’ to an intimate seated gig at the Foxlowe Arts Centre on Saturday the 9th of March, 2019.

First up onstage were the Deadbeat Damsels, featuring Jill Povey on Guitar and Vocals, Alison Savigar on Vocals, and John Crimes on Percussion (no Steve Giddings on Lead Guitar this time round), and playing a mixture of Americana, (Alt) Country and Country Rock, old & contemporary, with strong voices and beautiful harmonies. Cover versions on the night included tracks from First Aid Kit, and Ward Thomas amongst others. Playing the Foxlowe for the first time – the Deadbeat Damsels are more used to performing in the pubs in and around Leek – we’re sure that we’ll see them onstage here again in the near future.

Featuring a percussive dual guitar sound – ‘One Man, Two Guitars’ – aided by pedals and sample loops, Rodney Branigan performs an original and virtuoso blend of progressive folk, rock, flamenco, classic, bluegrass and jazz guitar (and mandolin, when it stays in tune), mixed with stories from the High Plains of Texas, anecdotes and dirty jokes – all of which he calls ‘Full Contact Folk Music’.

Rodney takes the stage, and after greeting the audience launches straight into his trademark dual guitar attack on his song “about schizophrenia” – Schizophrenia – “just to get it out of the way early”. An hour and a half long set features covers of Creep by Radiohead, The Way You Move by Outkast, and Come Together by The Beatles, as well as Rodney’s own material, including the evocative and moving paean to trying to grow trees on the High Plains of Texas, One Seed, and Devil’s Delight (which he dedicates to his mother, with tongue in cheek), as well as incendiary instrumentals and his shortest song of the night – an accapella paean as to why you shouldn’t leave your vinyl records out in the sun!

Highlights included tales of trashing expensive guitars and trying and failing to get his money back from the manufacturer; innuendos and British expressions for solitary pursuits; the relative merits of George W Bush compared to Donald Trump and the former’s attempts to replace sex education in American schools with an ‘Abstinence Programme’; a dirty joke about two divorcees meeting in a bar; his relatively clean-living lifestyle these days and applying for permanent UK citizenship; why his merchandise stand only had Rodney Branigan tea towels on it; whether or not Leek has any hip hop fans; and his risky and potentially life-threatening act of dual guitar showmanship that has previously left him unconscious twice and with facial injuries needing stiches, prompting the use of motorcycle googles on previous occasions! Rodney, for reasons best known to himself and not made clear to the audience, performs the stunt with one jean trouserleg rolled up and a wink to the audience (perhaps the act of rolling up his trouserleg sets him up mentally, only Rodney himself can say), before hammering his dual guitars so hard that three of the strings break on one of them and then twirling one of the guitars around his head and sitting down in one connected blur of motion, all without missing a note! We saw Kris Barras play his guitar behind his head and with his teeth, Jimi Hendrix style, a couple of weeks back; but Rodney’s act of guitar showmanship was all the more impressive because of the potential – and actual, in previous performances – level of jeopardy and risk of bodily injury! Thankfully, everything went OK this time. Phew.

As ever, both acts who played on the night and the Foxlowe thank everyone who came out to support live music in Leek, and we look forward to seeing you at the Foxlowe again soon for upcoming gigs.

The Deadbeat Damsels at Foxlowe Arts Centre

The Deadbeat Damsels at Foxlowe Arts Centre

Rodney Branigan at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Rodney Branigan at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Rodney Branigan at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Rodney Branigan at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Rodney Branigan at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Rodney Branigan at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Rodney Branigan at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

All photos by Giles Metcalfe.

Kris Barras Band and the Jack J Hutchinson Band rock the Foxlowe

The Kris Barras Band and the Jack J Hutchinson Band rocked a sold out, hot and sweaty Foxlowe Arts Centre last night.

The Jack J Hutchinson Band have supported the mighty Kris Barras Band on their Winter 2019 UK tour, throughout January and February.

Jack J Hutchinson is a British blues rock guitarist, based in London. The Jack J Hutchinson Band features: Jack J Hutchinson (vocals and guitar), Felipe Amorim (drums) and Lazarus Michaelides (bass).

The band, along with Stuart Moir and Alberto Manuzzi, are working on the follow-up to their critically acclaimed album ‘Paint No Fiction’. The record, with artwork designed by long time collaborator Aaron Gardner, is scheduled for release in the summer. Hutchinson has stated: “Most of the material has come together whilst on the road over the last 10 months or so. Whereas my previous record was written mainly at home with an acoustic guitar, a lot of the new songs came together in sound checks and in hotel rooms jamming on my electric. So, unsurprisingly, it feels like a much heavier album with a lot of movement.”

Some of that new material was played during the set last night, along with tracks from his critically acclaimed album ‘Paint No Fiction’ and a frenetic cover of ‘Oh Well, Part 1’ by Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, and was well-recieved by the enthuiastic 250+ sell-out crowd of blues, southern rock and classic rock fans.

The Kris Barras Band followed the Jack J Hutchinson Band, and played a trademark blistering set that featured classic rock and heavy blues guitar and “soul-wrenching melodies“, along with bravura displays of Jimi Hendrix-esque showmanship (including playing the guitar behind his head, and with his teeth) mixed with a swirling Hammond organ and keyboard sound, pounding drums and heavy bass.

The set featured ‘Watching Over Me’, a song written for his late father who had inspired him to pick up the guitar when he was 6. As a musician himself, he had played bass in Kris’s band. Kris’ father lost his battle with cancer a few years ago. The spoken introduction to the song and the emotional delivery was a touching tribute and touched everyone in the audience I’m sure.

The Kris Barras Band members are: Kris Barras – Lead vocals/guitar, Josiah J Manning – keys, Elliott Blacker – bass, and Will Beavis – drums.

From the Kris Barras Band website bio page:

“Inspired by his father at the early age of only Six years-old, Kris was already making an appearance on stage before turning Ten. He has since gone on to spend more than twenty years thrilling audiences throughout the globe playing live.

“The band have appeared at major festivals throughout the UK and Europe. These include Ramblin’ Man Fair (UK), Rawa Blues Festival (Poland) and Bliuzo Naktys (Lithuania). 2017 saw the band complete two very successful tours in both the UK and Europe with 2018 lining up much more of the same.

“In April 2018, it was announced that Kris would become the new frontman for USA super-group, Supersonic Blues Machine.The band feature’s legendary artists such as ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Steve Lukather (Toto), Eric Gales, Warren Haynes (Gov’t Mule) and Walter Trout.

“Kris was nominated for ‘Blues Guitarist of the Year 2017’ by Total Guitar magazine and voted into the Top 15 Blues Guitarists in the World by Music Radar.

“‘The Divine and Dirty’ album was released in March 2018 and went in straight at number one in both the Amazon and iTunes Blues charts as well as Number 3 in the Official UK Blues/Jazz Charts, where it remained in the top 30 for 12 weeks. The album also reached the UK top 40 on Amazon for all music; the only blues-based band in that chart at the time.”

Jack J Hutchinson Band - Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Jack J Hutchinson Band - Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Kris Barras Band - Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Kris Barras Band - Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Kris Barras Band - Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Kris Barras Band - Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Kris Barras Band - Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

All photos by Giles Metcalfe.

Leek Blues and Americana Festival 2018 FXLW

Now in its sixth year, the expanded Leek Blues and Americana Festival 2018 was held at 20 different indoor and outdoor venues all across Leek, with more than 60 bands playing, from Wednesday the 3rd of October to Sunday the 7th of October. The Festival was a great success.

On Wednesday the 3rd of October, The Foxlowe Arts Centre hosted The Guy Tortora Band, with support from Dave Luke & Chuck Micallef.

Dave Luke & Chuck Micallef, at The Foxlowe Arts Centre

Dave Luke & Chuck Micallef

The Guy Tortora Band, at The Foxlowe Arts Centre

The Guy Tortora Band

Sunday the 7th of October saw the FXLW: Americana sessions taking place all-afternoon and into the evening, featuring an eclectic lineup of six bands and artists playing from 12 noon until 7pm – Adam Coxon & Rick Ford, The Rye Sisters, Mean Mary & Frank James, Lissy Taylor, Fine Lines, and The Strange Blue Dreams.

Adam Coxon & Rick Ford, at The Foxlowe Arts Centre

Adam Coxon & Rick Ford

The Rye Sisters, at The Foxlowe Arts Centre

The Rye Sisters

Mean Mary & Frank James, at The Foxlowe Arts Centre

Mean Mary & Frank James

Lissy Taylor, at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Lissy Taylor

Fine Lines, at The Foxlowe Arts Centre

Fine Lines

The Strange Blue Dreams, at The Foxlowe Arts Centre

The Strange Blue Dreams

A big thank you to everyone involved – the artists who played on Wednesday night and on the Sunday, the sponsors, the Foxlowe staff and volunteers for all their hard work in staging the events, and to all that attended.

All photography by Giles Metcalfe.

The Foxlowe possessed by Demon

Saturday the 2nd of June saw the Night of the Demon at The Foxlowe, as the invited guests of the Leek Arts Festival put on a fiendishly theatrical performance and took possession of the mass audience.

Demon play a mix of hard rock/heavy metal/progressive rock, and were formed in 1979 by vocalist Dave Hill and guitarist the late Mal Spooner, both hailing from here in Leek, Staffordshire.

From Encyclopaedia Metallum: The Metal Archives:

“Demon started out as an occult-themed NWOBHM [New Wave of British Heavy Metal] band, but changed style to progressive/hard rock after their first two albums [Night of the Demon, and The Unexpected Guest]. Their later material varies, often even from album to album.”

Support on Saturday night came from The Blues Makers.

The Blues Makers

The Blues Makers

The Blues Makers

The Blues Makers

Demon

Demon

Demon

Demon

Demon

Demon

Demon

Demon

Demon

Demon

Demon

Demon

All photos by Giles Metcalfe.

Climax Blues Band

Formed in Stafford in the late 1960s, Climax Blues Band have always had a unique blend of jazz and blues. After 50 years, 18 albums, the hit “Couldn’t Get It Right” the band are still touring, and they brought their brand of jazzy blues to the Foxlowe for another high octane performance to a packed room.

Climax Blues Band

Climax Blues Band

Climax Blues Band

Climax Blues Band

Climax Blues Band

Climax Blues Band

Climax Blues Band

Climax Blues Band

Climax Blues Band

All photos by Giles Metcalfe.

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