It’s been twenty years since Madeleine Peyroux released her debut album, Dreamland.  Although the comparisons to Billie Holiday that dogged her initially have lessened, they haven’t totally evaporated either.  Peyroux does share a certain smokey tone with Holiday along with the ability to warp time with her phrasing, stretching vowels beyond breaking point or shoehorning syllables into the smallest of spaces with an ease that baffles belief.  Peyroux also shares Holiday’s ability to know a good song when she hears it;to inhabit it completely and make it her own.  A good song needs a good songwriter and tonight Peyroux will take songs by songwriters such as Tom Waits, Lennon & McCartney, Stephen Foster, Allan Toussaint, Leonard Cohen, Linton Kwesi Johnson  and Willie Dixon and turn them inside out. More »

Cambridge Folk festival has announce the first names for the 2017 festival.  More »

I only came across Sarah Jarosz a couple of weeks ago when I heard her excellent cover of Bob Dylan’s Simple Twist Of Fate from her album Build Me Up From Bones but I quickly fell in love with both the track and the album.  A quick Google revealed that she was playing here and so I had to go see her. More »

I hadn’t heard of Ezra Furman prior to last year’s Perpetual Motion People album which I described as my album of the summer.  I’m glad to say that its appeal has not waned and it still gets regular plays. I haven’t heard much about Ezra since the album’s release either, so I was quite surprised to learn that his gig here at The Liquid Room had sold out and I’m very grateful to Ezra’s management company for supplying a ticket at the last minute.  I was even more surprised to see that once Ezra and his band The Boy-Friends hit the stage that the majority of the audience were word perfect with not only the songs from Perpetual Motion People but with his earlier material as well.  More »

Every year Hifi Pig is invited to the Conservatoire de Musique at Saint-Brieuc in Brittany, France for an evening of jazz presented by the association Jazz Angle. It’s always an entertaining and well attended evening and, as relative newcomers to Jazz, it always throws up something new and unexpected that we’ve not heard before…and this year was no exception. More »

Steve Howe is, of course, the lead guitarist in Yes.  Although Yes were one of the main targets of the punk wars way back in the Seventies, the band has remained incredibly popular, despite line up changes and their own internal conflicts.  Even the sad passing of pivotal member, bass player Chris Squire, has not daunted them and the band will be setting sail once more, quite literally, as they headline their annual Cruise To The Edge cruise ship festival in February next year.  More »

Furnace Mountain are a four piece bluegrass band from northwestern Virginia.  Dave van Deventer on fiddle and vocals, Danny Knicely on fiddle, mandolin and vocals, Aimee Curl on bass and vocals and Morgan Morrison on bouzouki and vocals bring a modern twist to some old songs and tunes while providing plenty of their own. More »

Every now and again I go out at night and see a band that reminds me exactly why I go out at night to see bands.  The Stray Birds are one of those.  More »

It is rare for me to go to a gig specifically to see the support act but I made an exception for Fraser Anderson.  I had reviewed Fraser’s excellent album Under Cover Of Lightness earlier this year and has remained a regular listen. When I found out at the last minute that Fraser was gigging, I was determined to attend.   More »

Female electro poppers Marsheaux took their name from a portmanteau of the first syllables of their first names: Marianthi and Sophie.  Hailing from Thessaloniki, the girls moved to Athens to form the band.   Steeped in electronic pop music from the likes of Depeche Mode, The Human League, OMD, Soft Cell, New Order and Sparks, the girls have worked  to bring their own personality to their influences over the course of four previous studio albums and during this time  Marianthi and Sophie have also carved out a parallel career as remixers, reworking tracks by Katy Perry, Gwen Stefani, Kylie Minogue, Depeche Mode and Moby.  More »

Okay, I’m going to put this right out here.  I’m guilty.  I suspect I might be guilty of something that we may all be guilty of but I’m not going to use that as an excuse.  I’m guilty and I’m going to make a full confession.  So, here goes.  More »

Roy Harper may well be rock’s least well-known legend. The only non-band member to have sung a lead vocal on a Pink Floyd song (Have A Cigar from Wish You Were Here), he is also the subject of a Led Zeppelin song (Hats Off To (Roy) Harper).  David Gilmour, Paul And Linda McCartney and Kate Bush have guested on his albums and Bush, Peter Gabriel and This Mortal Coil have covered his songs.  More »

You may not have heard of the Crescendo festival that takes place each August in the beautiful French tourist resort of Saint Palais sur Mer in the Poitou Charente area of France, but it’s possibly the best organised festival I’ve ever attended and is in an absolutely magnificent setting on the cliff tops looking out to sea. There are very good campsites within 600m of the festival site, great restaurants and bars and the festival itself is safe, clean and attracts brilliant bands under the broad umbrella that is progressive rock. We visited first a few years ago when Hawkwind were headlining the Saturday night and this was sadly the last gig that their keyboard player Jason Stuart would ever play before he died. More »

In a former existence, Edinburgh’s Summerhall art space was a veterinary college.  Tonight’s gig is located in The Dissection Room and its tiled walls, linoleum floor and viewing gallery create a certain unsettling atmosphere that turns out to be quite appropriate.  Normally a standing venue, we’ve been provided with extraordinarily uncomfortable plastic chairs to sit on.  This is also apt as feeling uncomfortable is something of a theme for tonight’s entertainment.  More »

Amtrak’s Texas Eagle train runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, covering 2,728 miles and taking  just under 67 hours to complete its journey.  Tonight Billy Bragg and Joe Henry are showcasing a set of songs that they recorded when they took that trip together in March this year. More »

When Rickie Lee Jones toured her Pirates album in 1981, she comfortably filled Edinburgh’s 3,000 seat Playhouse Theatre.  Tonight, The Queen’s Hall, at less than one third of the size, is somewhat less than half full.  The lack of seat sales is undeniably disappointing but is perhaps unsurprising. Jones is an uncompromising musician who has followed her muse through a variety of musical journeys but has never gone out of her way to court the mainstream – her sole chart single hit, 1979’s Chuck E’s In Love, struck a chord with the record buying public without bending its LA boho jazz style to the fashions of the day.
More »

Forty years have passed since the summer of 1976, that long, hot summer when punk’s adrenaline rush threatened to sweep away anything and everything that threatened to get in its way.  The Sex Pistols were punk rock’s leading lights and singer Johnny Rotten was punk’s poster boy, although whether the band were a credible threat to the establishment or simply puppets – the punky Monkees –  of manager Malcolm McLaren’s situationist art project has become a moot point.  “Ever had the feeling you’ve been cheated?” sneered Rotten to an audience  the Pistols reached the point of self destruction.  I’ve never been too sure whether he was addressing the audience or himself. More »

Nikki Lane’s 2014 album All Or Nothin’ fused country songwriting with Spectoresque Be My Baby drums, glam rock handclaps and Muscle Shoals electric piano.  Tonight, there are no drums, no piano; just Nikki and her Fender acoustic with back up from special guest Jonathan Tyler on guitar and harmonica but Lane’s rock and roll attitude shines through. More »

Spizzenergi are remembered principally for two things: their 1979 single Where’s Captain Kirk?; the first single to top the UK indie chart where it remained at number one for seven weeks, and their tendency to change names at the drop of a hat.  Starting as Spizzoil, lead singer Spizz went on to lead a variety of line-ups as Spizzenergi, Athletico Spizz 80, The Spizzles, SpizzOrwell, and Spizz And The Astronauties amongst others.  More »

Craig and Charlie Reid have come along way since they signed off the dole in a bleak benefit office on Edinburgh’s west side and signed onto the government’s Enterprise Allowance Scheme, with which they helped to fund the first six months of their musical career as The Proclaimers .  Ten albums, a musical and a film based on their songs, and a track in the Shrek soundtrack later, they are playing the second of two sold out gigs on their home turf, there’s a pre-Christmas buzz in the Edinburgh air and a palpable sense of excitement in the auditorium.  More »

Last night 89 people lost their lives because they went to a rock concert in Paris.  Tonight, I’m at a rock concert and my thoughts, along with everyone in the audience, I suspect, are with that Bataclan audience and their families and loved ones.  Nils Lofgren has opened his shows on this tour with Too Many Miles, a song that he wrote in 2003 and that he describes as being about his personal demons, but tonight the lyrics – “There’s been too many fights in the name of love, there’s been too many tears and too much blood” take on a particular resonance.  More »

Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique was one of my first classical purchases way back in the early 1980s.  I was initially attracted by the album’s sleeve notes, which alluded to febrile opium-induced nightmares.  Also, the instrumentation featured something called an ophicleide, which I hadn’t encountered before and I’m not sure that I have since. More »

The last time I saw Richard Thomson in concert, a member of the audience shouted: “Where’s Linda tonight Richard?”  Thompson replied that she was in hospital giving birth.  Linda gave birth to a daughter, Kami, who as one half of The Rails is opening tonight’s show.  The other half of The Rails is Kami’s husband, James. More »

King Crimson gigs are, it would seem, like buses – you wait 35 years for one and then 2 come along at once.  I’m happy to say that I was able to attend both of their recent Edinburgh shows. More »

Is it really almost eighteen months since we last attended one of the Association Jazz Edge events? Let me put you in the picture dear reader. More »

If you are a hifi enthusiast, you may well think that there would be no better way to spend a couple of hours than listening to a system from one of the world’s most respected hifi companies.  You would, however, be wrong.  More »

Hifi Pig readers of a certain age will know Dean Friedman from at least two songs – Lucky Star and Ariel.  Readers of a younger vintage may know him from Half Man Half Biscuit’s song The Bastard Son Of Dean Friedman. More »

John Otway used to base much of his act around being a one-hit-wonder.  Until he became a two-hit-wonder.  But we are getting ahead of ourselves. More »

“Iconic” is a much overused word but when it comes to Tubular Bells, its use is entirely justified.  From its cover art to its multi tracked instrumentation, the album embodies the early seventies just as Sergeant Pepper did for the late sixties  a few years earlier and Never Mind The Bollocks would do for the mid seventies a couple of years later. More »

Now in its eleventh year the much loved Fest Jazz at Chateauneuf-du-Faou certainly didn’t disappoint visitors this year…if only the same could be said for the weather which was excitedly moist to say the very least. More »

I don’t believe in astrology. And yet, I exhibit all the qualities of a stereotypical Libra: I weigh up all sides of an argument, find it hard to make decisions and always, always see the other person’s point of view.

The Manic Street Preachers are very much a Marmite band: people either hate them with a vengeance or love them with a passion. Me, I can take them or leave them. I like a few of their songs very much and others do nothing for me. Perhaps it this that makes tonight’s show the proverbial game of two halves, but I’m not so sure. More »

A long, long time ago, as the song begins, I was a nine year old boy addicted to the radio. I was fascinated by American Pie as soon as I heard it. Mostly, because I had no idea what it was about. I hadn’t a clue what a levee was (I’m Scottish) – I’m not sure I have a much better idea of what one is even now. Whisk(e)y, I knew (did I mention I’m Scottish); but rye? None of that really mattered though because American Pie was a story, a screenplay for a film that I could act out in my head every time I heard it. More »

The support act for Bryan Ferry’s current tour is Welsh singer-songwriter Judith Owen who describes her new album, Ebb & Flow, as “a love letter to Laurel Canyon”. Earlier in the day while I was on the phone to my friend Terry, arranging to meet up for the concert, he checked out Judith’s website and noted that the backing band on Ebb & Flow were stellar LA session musicians Leland Sklar, Waddy Wachtel and Russ Kunkel. Those guys are all over our record collections. “It would be great if they were her touring band” I joked. We laughed, knowing that would never happen. So to say that we were pleasantly surprised when the unmistakable figure of Sklar, looking like one of ZZ Top’s beardy uncles, ambled on stage accompanied by Wachtel and Kunkel would be something of an understatement. More »

The Unthanks brought their UK tour in support of new album, Mount The Air, to a close in front of a sell out crowd at The Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh. Departing from tradition, not for the first time tonight, The Unthanks eschew the time-honoured format support band followed by main act. Instead, The Young Uns – a trio of acapella close harmony singers – open each of the two halves of the show. Beginning with a terrific version of Billy Bragg’s Between The Wars, the Young Uns win over the audience instantly with a combination of first class vocals and humour. “How could you not love The Young Uns?” asks Becky Unthank later, and I honestly can’t imagine anyone not doing so. More »

Somewhere in the deep, dusty archives of the BBC television centre lies an unseen episode of Dr Who in which Rumer becomes the Doctor’s assistant and travels back to 1975 where her new album Into Colour becomes the best selling album of the year. More »

If I required yet another reminder that The Supreme Being does not evenly distribute his gifts, I need look no further than Steven Wilson. Let’s have a think about this: Does he have a back catalogue spanning more than 20 years, covering a diverse variety of genres? – He does. Can he sing and play a multitude of musical instruments to a more than acceptable standard? – He certainly can. Do rock legends such as King Crimson’s Robert Fripp, Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson and Yes’ Steve Howe and Chris Squire queue up to have him remix their classic albums to give them a 21st century sonic spring clean? – They do. And on top of all this, he looks at least 10 years younger than his age and seems like the kind of bloke that you would happily spend a highly entertaining evening with in the pub. Bastard. More »

Wish You Were Here?
More »

It’s always a pleasant surprise at a gig to discover that the support band is one that you have actually heard of. I had enjoyed Public Service Broadcasting’s album Inform-Educate-Entertain when I heard it last year but had found it difficult to dispel a feeling that it was a bit “Kraftwerk lite”. Live however, the duo of J. Will goose, Esq. and Wrigglesworth (possibly not their real names) are supplemented by other musicians, including a three-piece brass section on a couple of numbers. More »

Adam Cohen’s show at The Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh – the first night of his European tour – was opened by local lad Dean Owens, supported on guitar and vocals by Calais Brown. Owens, former frontman of alt-country band The Felsons, showcased some songs from his forthcoming Nashville-recorded album Into The Sea along with others from his extensive back catalogue. Owen’s songs are thoughtful and crafted: “Some of my songs are quite melancholy” he informed us, “The others are just miserable”. Perhaps the most melancholic and certainty the most affecting is Man From Leith, a tribute to his father. More »