Category Archives: Stephen

Al Shields – Mountains – EP Launch

Al Shields – Mountains EP Launch

Al Shields is no stranger to the Edinburgh music circuit having lived here for more than ten years establishing a name for himself with his Americana style.

Al Shields - Mountains

Al Shields – Mountains

He chose Sneaky Pete’s, Cowgate for the launch of his latest release Mountains on the 19th of April, performing a list of some covers, old music and his latest EP.  He was joined on the night by fellow performers John. D McIntosh and Lewis Rumney who warmed the crowd up. The night kicked off sharp due to the noise curfew with Lewis the first to take the mic. Cat was running late so sadly we only managed a phone picture but we enjoyed his performance.

Lewis Rumney - Photo by Joe

Lewis Rumney – Photo by Joe

John D McIntosh - Photo by Cat

John D McIntosh – Photo by Cat

John. D McIntosh followed with a upbeat set which included a cover of Bruce Springsteen’sTougher Than The Rest” which went down well with the crowd. Check out his song Bandcamp for more information.

Al Shields - Photo by Cat

Al Shields – Photo by Cat

After a short break, Al Shields took to the stage opening up with “Got It So Bad” taken from his first album “Slow Burner“. Als’ voice is pretty distinctive which wouldn’t be out of place in Tennessee. He held the audience as he waved through a jam packed list, making use of every valuable second, at one stage putting on a harmonica headpiece.

Al Shields & Kat Healy - Photo by Cat

Al Shields & Kat Healy – Photo by Cat

He was joined onstage by fellow musicians at various times accompanying him with vocals. Kat Healy joined in on Ryan Adams song “Oh my sweet Carolina” and Julia Hoare in “Mutineer“, a Warren Zevon cover. Matt Norris came in and joined them for “Bluebird” along with playing various instruments including the mandolin and banjo for different numbers with Al.

Al Shields, Matt Norris & Julia Hoare - Photo by Cat

Al Shields, Matt Norris & Julia Hoare – Photo by Cat

He produced a set which demonstrated to all attending of his ability as a performer and songwriter along with having some fun with more well known songs from established artists.  Originally from the Isle of Bute, Al was charismatic and witty between songs although we have different feelings towards the ukulele,”it is a real instrument Al“! “Johanna, Kick your feet up” and “Bluebird” were personal favourites all from the new EP “Mountains“. Al got a well earned rapturous applause at the end of the show which went far too quickly for me.

For information about Al Shields, upcoming tour dates, music releases, store & social media links, visit alshields.com

Stephen.

Nell Bryden’s triumphant return to Auld Reekie

Nell Bryden – 04/11/2015 – The Caves, Edinburgh – In association with “Fake Frown Acoustic Sessions“.

Nell Bryden - Photo by Joe

Nell Bryden – Photo by Joe

The head-line act of a night of fantastic female performances was from the wonderful Nell Bryden who was accompanied by her three piece male band.  They walked onstage and Nell began by going straight into her first song “Tonight” taken from the album “What does it take“. This wonderful catchy and upbeat song echoed through the vaulted ceilings of the venue and proved to be a great indicator of what was to come from the fantastic foursome. After rapturous applause, a beaming Nell thanked the crowd and spoke of her delight of returning to Scotland to perform. She informed us she was spotted on the street earlier that day by a fan and jokingly told us she felt very famous. “Buildings and treetops” was next up, a beautiful acoustic number from the 2012 album “Shake the tree“.

Nell Bryden - Photo by Joe

Nell Bryden – Photo by Joe

Feels so good to cry” had a slight Joni Mitchell style with powerful and emotional lyrics which for me were a personal favorite, on which Nell played a 1964 Gibson 12 string guitar (very impressive). Each song was unique and different from the previous, taking the audience on a journey through her impressive back catalogue along with some new numbers. “All you had” from the Wayferer album also struck a note beginning as a slow number before halfway through changing direction into a faster upbeat tempo song, its seemed like it shouldn’t work but it did.

Nell Bryden - Photo by Joe

Nell Bryden – Photo by Joe

She invited Judith Owen back on stage to join her for “Holes in my shoes”, a song they composed in Nashville with Kimmie Rhodes, both their vocals singing harmoniously together and the audience showed their appreciation for the music.

Judith Owen & Nell Bryden - Photo by Joe

Judith Owen & Nell Bryden – Photo by Joe

Nell is such a charismatic and dedicated performer, her enjoyment of doing so evident to see by anyone lucky enough to catch her live. She took the audience on a journey through a tunnel of emotions which seemed to pass in the blink of an eye. In what felt like only a minute of being on stage, she announced her final song “Second time around“, another track from 2009’sWhat does it take”.

Nell Bryden - Photo by Joe

Nell Bryden – Photo by Joe

Nell Bryden is a strong and powerful singer songwriter, unafraid to try new things and who certainly doesn’t focus on the past. She has successfully managed to make a name for herself in an industry which can often be superficial and often hung up on fitting into what is deemed the “norm“. Nell Bryden is certainly not someone that I would place in this category and I have an unending admiration for her as a result. She knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to put in the hard work to achieve it, as clearly seen by the self financing of her first album or doing tours for the troops abroad.

Nell Bryden - Photo by Joe

Nell Bryden – Photo by Joe

Big things are happening for Nell in 2016. She will be performing a radio show every Monday night during January on BBC Radio 2 entitled “Nell’s Angels“. Each week she will be examining the great female artists of various musical genres which has influenced music and song writing. She already has a UK tour lined up in the coming year. Between juggling motherhood, being a wife and building upon an already successful career, things are shaping up well for this star who seems to have an endless supply of energy. I shall be tuning in to Radio 2 every Monday in January to be taken once again on a musical journey with this  impressive singer and songwriter.

For information about Nell Bryden, upcoming tour dates, music releases, store & social media links, visit her website.

Stephen.

Judith Owen – The Caves, Edinburgh

In Association with Fake Frown Acoustic Sessions live at The Caves, Edinburgh 4/11/2015

Judith Owen - Photo by Joe

Judith Owen – Photo by Joe

Judith Owen took her place on stage behind her keyboard and was joined by Leland Sklar on bass. Both of these enormously talented musicians have a vast experience in the musical industry and this was clearly demonstrated to an awestruck audience as they made their way through a song list of both original and cover versions of some well known songs. Judith has a wonderful wit and rapport with her audience which began with the introduction of her first song ‘Train out of Hollywood‘ which she declared with a cheeky grin was about the nasty people who live there, herself included. Next was ‘I would give anything’ from her 2014 album Ebb and Flow, an emotional number about missing those who are gone and a yearning for more time with them..

Judith Owen & Leyland Sklar - Photo by Joe

Judith Owen & Leyland Skylar – Photo by Joe

Each song went down with rapturous applause, Leland remaining a man of few words except for the occasional one liner in response to Judith. She informed us that the Scottish have ‘great heart’ and that she hailed from Wales who were ‘similar to the Irish except without the fun’. Her humour and playful nature shone between each song whilst her vocals echoed against the thick walls of The Caves. Her version of  ‘In the Summertime‘ was made with her own unique style and she cleverly made it her own. The two musicians played beautifully together and I have to admit that we at BeardedRadio had beard envy at Leland’s majestic white facial hair( that does not happen very often).

Judith Owen - Photo by Joe

Judith Owen – Photo by Joe

Judith and Leland provided an excellent show full of wonderful songs, charm and a warmth that was well received evident when announcing her final song, she received a loud ahhhhhhhhhhh twinged in sadness. ‘Blackbird‘ finished her set on a high and I must say i thoroughly enjoyed the Welsh star. She currently has on release  the EP Christmas Without Tears” in collaboration with her husband Harry Shearer. All proceeds from this EP go towards the very worthy Elton John AIDS Foundation  This innovative and creative group of songs may not fit into the Christmas “song norm”, yet prove once again that Judith is one of those rare, hidden and under rated artists.

For information about Judith Owen, upcoming tour dates, music releases and store or social media links, visit her website. 

Stephen.

Party at the Palace – Linlithgow

McEwan’s Party at the Palace, Linlithgow 8th/9th August,2015.

Sitting just west of Edinburgh, twenty minutes by train is the very charming Scottish village Linlithgow. I’d been to the village before and once to the romantic and idyllic Linlithgow Palace to attend a wedding. Being the birth place of ‘Mary Queen Of Scots’ its fair to say this place is steeped in history and one of Scotland’s most beautiful  and sought after venues. On this occasion it was hosting the second annual McEwans’ Party At The Palace. We weren’t there to admire the wonderful panoramic views although impossible they were to ignore on a shocking and surprisingly sunny weekend. This two day musical feast had course after course of fantastic local, national and international musical acts.

Soon after we arrived Horse took to the stage and sang her heart out, I’ve wanted to see her live since watching Will Young & Horse on The Quay Sessions with Edith Bowman. This was an excellent performance, superb vocals with some proper Fife banter between songs.

Horse - Photo by Cat

Horse – Photo by Cat

Horse - Photo by Cat

Horse – Photo by Cat

Horse - Photo by Cat

Horse – Photo by Cat

Justin Currie still sounds great, I’ve a couple Del Amitri CD’s and was pretty chuffed to hear the man himself sing live.  Cat was amazed I knew the words and I was disappointed she didn’t, Justin and I were both rocking Double Denim and nailing it.

Justin Currie - Photo by Cat

Justin Currie – Photo by Cat

Justin Currie - Photo by Cat

Justin Currie – Photo by Cat

When The Feeling took to the stage the Party went to another level, playing all their big numbers and pleasing a bouncing crowd. Dan Gillespie Sells crowd surf through frenzied revellers was magic. The Feeling are very much at the top of their game and personally speaking their performance stole the show.

The Feeling - Photo by Cat

The Feeling – Photo by Cat

The Feeling - Photo by Cat

The Feeling – Photo by Cat

The Feeling - Photo by Cat

The Feeling – Photo by Cat

The Feeling - Photo by Cat

The Feeling – Photo by Cat

The Feeling - Photo by Cat

The Feeling – Photo by Cat

The Feeling - Photo by Cat

The Feeling – Photo by Cat

On their only UK tour date, Travis took to the stage and we were treated to hit after hit of their legendary songbook. This was another incredible performance and indeed an honour to see a band I’ve loved for many years but had never seen live. You could feel the Scottish pride throughout the crowd, this was very a special occasion and a fantastic end to day one.

Travis - Photo by Cat

Travis – Photo by Cat

Travis - Photo by Cat

Travis – Photo by Cat

Travis - Photo by Cat

Travis – Photo by Cat

Travis - Photo by Cat

Travis – Photo by Cat

Our very own ‘Disco Prince’ Stephen was unable to resist the temptation any longer and decided to join us for Day Two at The Palace, I knew this would happen.

Soon after we arrived The Red Hot Chilli Pipers filled the stage with a fantastic wall of charismatic, immaculately presented kilted musicians. The crowd were loving it and “Bagpipe Rock” most likely was heard for miles, these guys know how to put on a show.

Photo by Cat

Photo by Cat

Red Hot Chilli Pipers - Photo by Cat

Red Hot Chilli Pipers – Photo by Cat

Red Hot Chilli Pipers - Photo by Cat

Red Hot Chilli Pipers – Photo by Cat

Red Hot Chilli Pipers - Photo by Cat

Red Hot Chilli Pipers – Photo by Cat

Scouting For Girls fans were well represented in the crowd, they played a great set as we moved further into evening time. Roy Stride has an incredible talent which although I don’t always connect to the lyrics, his skill and voice are very impressive.

Scouting For Girls - Photo by Cat

Scouting For Girls – Photo by Cat

Scouting For Girls - Photo by Cat

Scouting For Girls – Photo by Cat

Scouting For Girls - Photo by Cat

Scouting For Girls – Photo by Cat

Photo by Cat

Photo by Cat

By now everyone was in full party mode with massive excitement, anticipation and indeed acute Disco Fever building through the crowd of hungry music lovers present. I looked to the side and there was local woman Susan Boyle having a carryon and enjoying a night out and chatting to the various performers.

Evening fell into night and the DISCO was turned on and set alight with Nile Rodgers and Chic warming up the audience as night temperature fell . This wasn’t just the largest nor the poshest  disco in the world indeed this was the best, open air and atmospheric setting you could ever wish for. Nile Rodgers and Chic give us everything they had as these top shelf musicians, famous for their singing, dancing and some funky disco lights and general ‘boogieness’ finished off a spectacular evening and weekend that was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Nile Rodgers & Chic - Photo by Cat

Nile Rodgers & Chic – Photo by Cat

Party at the Palace Photo by Cat

Party at the Palace
Photo by Cat

Nile Rodgers - Photo by Cat

Nile Rodgers – Photo by Cat

Nile Rodgers & Chic - Photo by Cat

Nile Rodgers & Chic – Photo by Cat

Nile Rodgers & Chic - Photo by Cat

Nile Rodgers & Chic – Photo by Cat

Nile Rodgers & Chic - Photo by Cat

Nile Rodgers & Chic – Photo by Cat

Nile Rodgers & Chic - Photo by Cat

Nile Rodgers & Chic – Photo by Cat

Party at the Palace Photo by Cat

Party at the Palace
Photo by Cat

Also performing over the weekend though before our arrival unfortunately were ‘Battle of the Bands’ Winners Apache Darling100 Fables who are just about to release their debut, Little Eye, Julie Fowlis and Jamie & Shonny who I just managed to catch the end of, these guys are incredible and have an amazing energy so I guess the lesson for next year would be to arrive early afternoon. Already plans are taking shape for next year, to keep up to date and ‘in the know’ visit: Party At The Palace.

 Joe 

Duke Special – Electric Circus – Edinburgh -17/04/2015

Duke Special Photo by Cat

Duke Special
Photo by Cat

The highly accomplished performer and songwriter Duke Special (aka Peter Wilson) struck a chord when he recently visited Scotland’s capital, wooing the crowd through a spectrum of emotions as he performed his wonderful and unique style of showmanship.

Duke Special Photo by Cat

Duke Special
Photo by Cat

Based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Peter Wilson is from a long line of piano players. He was in various groups before going solo in 2002, taking the stage name of Duke Special. In that time he has released nine albums, six EP’S and has been nominated for the Choice Music Prize. He has performed extensively throughout his career including on televised events such as live on Later….With Jools Holland and Live at the BBC Proms. His latest album, ‘Look Out Machines!’ was released in early April of this year and comprises of eleven well written polished compositions.

Duke Special Photo by Cat

Duke Special
Photo by Cat

Duke Special walked on stage to screams, whistles and a warm Scottish welcome. With great energy and enthusiasm he took to the keys and started with a bang . After his first number he stopped for a quick chat, offered his thanks to his supporting act ’She Makes War (who was incredible), and removed any barriers with the adoring audience by even inviting us on stage if we wished. We satisfied ourselves by moving even closer, snuggled around the stage with him and his piano and absorbed his facial expressions, eye-liner and waist length dreads. He talked and sang his way through a hefty set list, almost 20 songs in total. There was some new and old favourites, a couple of covers each with a back story, some whimsical and light while others had a more personal content.

Duke Special Photo by Cat

Duke Special
Photo by Cat

Nail On The Head’ cleverly describes that essential necessity in life of having family and friends around you keeping it real, who sometimes have to give those hard home truths. ‘In A Dive’ is a song about kindness and a huge hit with the crowd who were not shy in showing their appreciation of Duke. As the show progressed, so did the electrifying atmosphere, ‘Step To The Magical’ one of my favorites from his latest collection sounded superb live. ‘Son Of The Left Hand’ has a Gothic/church style to it with tension building throughout, the hard rhythm of bashing drums contributing to its climax. Each song was able to capture and move the audience whether it was light and comical or dark and difficult subject matter. His stage presence is powerful, with a unique and individualistic approach, captivating and endearing to one and all. He finished the show with ’No Cover Up’, a perfect choice on which to end this ‘Avant Garde‘ performance.

Duke Special Photo by Cat

Duke Special
Photo by Cat

One of the highlights for me was ‘Domino’, a beautiful and emotive song I first discovered on the Eastside Arts,Eastside Sessions’ DVD of various Northern Irish talent.  On the DVD Duke Special plays in the historical and atmospheric offices of Harland and Wolf. This song gives me goosebumps and gets me every time.

Duke Special Photo by Cat

Duke Special
Photo by Cat

Of his cover songs, ‘The Alabama Song‘ really shone out for me, making this well known track his very own. Afterwards he happily stopped and chatted to us and signed his new album. I shared my appreciation of ‘The Alabama song’ with him, which he then in turn told me of its history, not from The Doors as I had thought. It is true, you learn something new every day. The whole evening from start to finish was an absolute showstopper. He pulled off a fantastic performance and as I left the venue, I found myself humming ‘Andrew in drag’ all the way home.

Duke Special Photo by Cat

Duke Special
Photo by Cat

To visit the Duke Special website, music store/stream, videos, upcoming gigs, news and links to his social media, click the image below.

Stephen

lookoutMachines

Led Zeppelin IV – Deluxe Edition – Re-mastered

Led Zeppelin IV (Remastered)

The great guitarist and rock legend Jimmy Page, has been quite vocal recently with his desire to return to the studio and indeed tour once again. Judging from front man Robert Plant’s continual rejection of such a notion and he himself busy on tour, it looks like the prospect of a full scale Led Zeppelin reunion is clearly ruled out. In the meantime, Jimmy Page has been keeping himself busy by meticulously re-mastering the Led Zeppelin back catalogue and offering bonus material comprising of alternate musical arrangements of each album. Led Zeppelin IV & Houses of The Holy, Deluxe Editions were released 27th October. Each Deluxe Edition of albums, I, II, & III have been hugely enjoyable, with some interesting and alternate mixes. I would recommend checking them out. I wanted to go into more detail with Led Zeppelin IV. It is without a doubt one of my desert island disc choices, in my top five favourite albums, and I have never tired of it after years of continual play.
I was more interested to see what the bonus material and alternate mixes would entail.
The alternative mix of each of the eight tracks made for a pleasant and positive listening experience. What struck me most was its stripped back and raw approach of familiar tracks, offered officially for the first time by Jimmy Page. “Black Dog” was certainly back to basics with guitar overdubs, whilst “Rock and Roll” had a somewhat grungier garage style, not as finely polished as the original.
“The Battle of Evermore” and “Going to California” were the two personal highlights offered as instrumental versions, of incendiary guitar and mandolin playing. It is two compositions where you can really appreciate John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page’s musical arrangements. These are two tracks that I have always felt showed Led Zeppelin’s softer, smooth style, that fits in so perfectly side by side with heavier songs. In contrast to this, John Bonham demonstrates in both “Four Sticks” and “When the Levee Breaks” , his infamous and booming ability as an accomplished drummer which are the backbone to both songs. Again I found these to be raw mixes which are not too dissimilar to the originals, and hey why would they be? On “Misty Mountain Hop”, I honestly did not notice much difference at all, perhaps a heavier drum beat and slight varation on Plant’s singing.
Finally the masterpiece, “Stairway to Heaven” is one of the most famous songs of all time, apparently the most played song ever on radio. Robert Plant’s voice is the clear winner on this alternate sunset mix. The best way to describe it to you, is that it sounds as though Led Zeppelin had set up in a huge Cathedral and the almost echo sound quality of Plant’s voice was captured as it sneaked into a huge space. The great guitar solo as the song reaches it climax has some extra guitar thrown in by Jimmy and Bonham’s beats also sound clearer on this version. I really enjoyed this alternative mix, and being able to appreciate each instruments contribution to the overall composition.
I think it’s fair to say, that I might be a little biased when it comes to Led Zeppelin. I’ve grown up with them and their back catalogue. I still feel as strongly and as passionately as I did when I first discovered them all those years ago. The new Deluxe Edition is thoroughly enjoyable and it has been an interesting experience,  being able to hear what these songs could well have sounded like. If you a big Led Zeppelin fan, I would definitely recommend checking out the new offerings. However if you are a novice when it comes to them, Led Zeppelin IV is the place to start, whether its 1971’s or 2014’s version, I don’t think anyone could be disappointed.

Stephen.

Led Zeppelin IV (Deluxe Edition)
Houses Of The Holy (Deluxe Edition)

Led Zeppelin (Deluxe Edition)
Led Zeppelin II (Deluxe Edition)
Led Zeppelin III (Deluxe Edition)

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Robert Plant – Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar

lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar

When Robert Plant sprung into international fame back in 1968, he was a young inexperienced 19 year old lad from the Midlands. His luscious locks and powerful stage performance took the world by storm, and fame and fortune made Led Zeppelin one of the most successful groups of all time, proving to be an inspiration to future generations of musicians and earning their rightful place in Rock’n’Roll history.

When Led Zeppelin finished, Robert did not, instead he carved out a solo career which in itself spans over three decades. Now at 66 years of age, he still has the luscious locks, still has the voice, and is still making fantastic music, and is a man who never seems to remain still or fixated with the past, always looking forward.

Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar” is his tenth solo album and his first with his band “The Sensational Space Shifters”. With this new volume of work, I wasn’t disappointed with what I heard. Robert Plant’s voice has mellowed over the years; however his creative ability as a singer/songwriter has not.

The opening track “Little Maggie” has a afro-Celtic pulse running through with a hint of folk thrown in for good measure and sets the listener up for what is the come.

Rainbow” leads on from this, another rich and atmospheric tune which reminded me of the 2005 “Mighty Rearranger” album, and we get the first “ooohhhhhhhhhhhhh” which, let’s be honest, you would expect from Mr Plant.

The eastern sounds of “Pocketful of Golden” give a subtle nod back to the Zeppelin days, in particular to “Thank you”, one of Roberts’s first major self-penned contributions.

The instrumental build up on “Embrace Another Fall”, along with the cameo Celtic folk vocals of Julie Murphy and strong guitar throughout make this a firm favorite for me.

The more I listen, the more I realise how each track is unlike any he has done previously and even though I may pick up on very small similarities or connections to something of the past, they are minute.

A Stolen Kiss” is the softest composition on the album and Roberts’s low tones seem filled with mournfulness and sorrow. It’s this song which gives the album its title. Definitely an emotional one!

Somebody there” is another beautiful soft composition which then leads onto “Poor Howard”, a more upbeat banjo song, one which wouldn’t seem out of place being played in an Irish thatched pub with the fire blazing and the “craic a flowing”.

The straightforward and pleasant “House of Love” was more powerful instrumentally than it was vocally, yet fits perfectly into the album, I felt.

Coming towards the end of the album, “Up on The Hollow Hill” gives a wonderful combination of eastern sounding guitars with low vocals and a strong rhythm section.

The finale song “Arbadden (Maggie’s Babby)” is essentially a shorter reprise of the opening track with a healthy eastern style added for good measure.

Robert Plant has never been, and most likely never will be, able to completely distance himself from the magic of Led Zeppelin and his work will always be compared to that which he did so long ago.

But I have to admire a man who has not bowed to relive the pressures of glories past or let such notions hinder his creative journey. Both Robert and The Sensational Space Shifters have produced a new volume of music that any musician would be proud to call their own. I continue to enjoy his music and always look forward to what the “Golden God” will come up with next, never quite sure what direction he will take. Sure as he famously once sang “Yes, there are two paths that you can go by, but in the long run, There’s still time to change the road you’re on”, he’s tried many in his musical career. Over the past ten years I have been very fortunate to have seen Robert Plant perform live on eight occasions. Next months gig in Dublin, Eire will make it nine. I’m eagerly looking forward to this intimate show and can feel the adrenaline bubbling already!!

Robert Plant – Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar:  A definite one to add to the collection.

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