Wednesday 27 February 2013

King King: Standing In The Shadows

Standing In The Shadows
King King
''Here at Radio 2, we think Alan Nimmo and King King are going all the way...''

So said veteran BBC presenter and Blues Band icon Paul Jones, in reaction to hearing King King's debut album, Take My Hand. Great praise leads to high expectations and the proverbial problems associated with the ''difficult second album.''

So, how does Standing In The Shadows measure up to it's highly regarded predecessor?

The blues/rock genre is retained, with the first two songs setting the scene powerfully, displaying the heavier side of King King. Just when I thought the whole album may be going to continue in the same vein, the tempo shifted to ballad-mode for A Long History Of Love and the next two songs. Thereafter, there is a pleasing mix of pace, with every song backed up by the big rock sound.

Alan Nimmo - the first man I've seen wearing a kilt on the front cover of a CD since Harry Lauder -  (vocals and guitars) shares the songwriting duties with Lindsay Coulson (bass) on the majority of the songs (there are two covers: Jealousy and Heavy Load.) The line up is completed by Wayne Proctor (drums and percussion) and Bennett Holland (keys and backing vocals).

Heavy on guitar licks, the album flows well from start to finish. It's not all power chords, though; the slower songs reveal a different guitar aspect - particularly on What Am I Supposed To Do, which I feel is one of the strongest songs on the album.

The keyboards definitely add a certain something to the sound, especially on tracks such as Taken What's Mine, where they punctuate the mood and fill out the sound around the heavier guitar breaks.

Track List

More Than I Can Take
Taken What's Mine
A Long History Of Love
What Am I Supposed To Do
One More Time Around
Can't Keep From Trying
Coming Home (Rest Your Eyes)
Heavy Load
Let Love In

Stand out tracks:  A Long History Of Love, Jealousy, What Am I Supposed To Do.

Standing In The Shadows is an impressive CD and one which pays no respect to the mythical problems of the ''difficult second album.'' It will be released on 25 March 2013 on the Manhaton label.

Further details, including tour dates, are available on the official King King website.

Monday 25 February 2013


I have decided to master the art of juggling.

I am convinced that with a good deal of practice it is possible to reach a fair degree of proficiency. I've seen it done, many times.

Concentration is definitely required
So is a daring streak
Flexibility can be useful too
My sister bought me a juggling kit some time ago
Now, let's see - that's one in the air
Now two are on the go
All three - and still one hand free to use the camera!
Of course, there is a very good reason why I want to take up juggling. Next time I do the weekly shop and I am unloading copious amounts of fruit and fish onto the counter, I will wait patiently for the inevitable question:  ''Do you need any bags?'' 

Then, dear readers, I will pause for a moment or two for dramatic effect before replying, ''No thanks - it's fine! I can easily juggle all of this home with my bare hands, thank you!''

And then, with a demonstration of extraordinary dexterity, I'll prove it.

Doug MacLeod: There's A Time

There's A Time
Doug MacLeod

With a career already spanning more than 30 years, Doug MacLeod is all set to make another debut - this time with the Reference Recordings label. There's A Time will be given the star treatment, with a two-LP vinyl set being released alongside the regular CD edition.

The genre is acoustic blues; slow-burning, story-telling songs played as live, with no overdubs. Indeed, the spontaneity is a particular strength of the record. ''There are two songs on this album where I either missed a word or changed an entire verse on the spot'' confessed MacLeod.

His songs (all self-penned here, as is the norm for MacLeod) are based primarily on his own life and influences. He says, ''If you're speaking honestly, then I believe you're coming from your heart. If you can get to the heart, then you can get to the soul, and I think that's where songs like to live.''

The exception to the rule comes in the form of My Inlaws Are Outlaws. ''This is the only song I've written that's not true! I used some poetic license here, which they tell me is just a little less important than a fishing license.''

Doug's guitar collection must be huge. The CD booklet reveals which one was played on each track, complete with pictures. The band consists of Denny Croy on bass and Jimi Bott on drums.

Track List

Rosa Lee
Black Nights
The Up Song
My Inlaws Are Outlaws
The Entitled Few
A Ticket Out
Run With The Devil
St. Elmo's Rooms and Pool
I'll Be Walking On
East Carolina Woman
The Night Of The Devil's Road
Dubb's Talking Religion Blues

Stand out tracks:  A Ticket Out, East Carolina Woman, Ghost.

There's A Time will be released on 12 March 2013. Find out more over at the Doug MacLeod website.

Sunday 24 February 2013

No Loitering Within

Pop along to It's A Sign! for our full collection of signs.

Friday 22 February 2013

Don't Even Think About... for electric eels here.

For our full collection of signs, pop along to It's A Sign!

Sunday 17 February 2013

Light Embrace: Meditation Workshop

I would like to draw your attention to Light Embrace, a new business based in North East England offering the following services:

  • Reiki
  • Reflexology
  • Indian Head Massage
  • Thermal Auricular Therapy (Hopi Ear Candling)
  • Meditation
  • Work in Schools & Peer Massage (MISP)
  • Relaxation classes

Telephone: 07743512539

Coming soon from Light Embrace...

Thursday 14 March 2013

Relaxation and meditation evening.  Time 7 p.m. to 8.15 p.m.  This will be a four week course, but can also be used as a 'dip-in and out' if you are unable to commit to the consecutive four weeks. During the session we will be learning meditation techniques for beginners, methods to help relieve stress and tension, strategies to raise self-esteem and more. The class will evolve to meet the needs of those attending. There will be a short refreshement break where you will be able to meet and talk with 'like-minded' people.

For further details on the workshop and all other relevant activities and treatments, please visit the Light Embrace website

Saturday 16 February 2013

Bart Walker: Waiting On Daylight

Waiting On Daylight
Bart Walker

Bart Walker's name may not be familiar to most readers but he's certainly no newcomer.His musical CV includes plenty of time spent on the road with Bo Rice and considerable studio experience alongside the likes of Steve Gorman, Audley Freed and Robert Kearns.

His influences constantly seep through into his own music - Stevie Ray Vaughan, ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin and Jack White, to name but four - and they definitely inform his style. Waiting On Daylight, his debut for Ruf Records, has one and a half feet in the rock camp, leaving the remaining toes still dipping into the blues pool.

Heavy on guitar licks and blistering solos, Bart keeps the big sound going throughout the album. As he puts it: ''If it doesn't have the big fat beefy tone, then I won't play to my fullest potential.''

Track List

It's All Good
Black Clouds
Took It Like A Man
Girl You Bad
Gotta Be You
Waiting On Daylight
Hipshake It
Mary andMe
Whippin' Post

It's All Good is a very optimistic, uncomplicated feel-good opener whereas Black Clouds is a darker, heavier and grungier offering. Essentially, they represent the two counterpoints to Bart's repertoire. Tracks such as Girl You Bad fall into the latter side of things (which is a little on the heavy side for my liking), while the feel-good factor is retained on the likes of Hipshake It (much more to my liking). Meanwhile, Whippin' Post, the albums slow burning closer, is the closest the album comes to true blues.

Stand out tracks:  It's All Good, Waiting on Daylight, Hipshake It.

Find out more over at the official Bart Walker website.

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Mighty Mojos: Hook Line and Sinker

Hook Line And Sinker
Mighty Mojos

The Mighty Mojos are another new band to me. Hailing from Northern Ireland, and popular players on the club scene there for the last couple of years, they are all set to release their debut CD in a week's time.

Their music encompasses the worlds of rock, rockabilly and blues, with just a twist of country. It's a four-piece band, with the following personnel:

Alan Ward: Vocals, harmonica
Davy Kennedy: Drums
Ali McKenzie: Bass
David McClean: Guitars

The opener, White Lightning, sets a fast rockabilly pace for the rest to follo. It reminds me a little bit of some of Brian Setzer's work, specifically from his 13 album. David McClean's slide guitar and Alan Ward's harmonica are both well to the fore here and they continue to impress throughout the album.

Devil In Disguise is sure to be another popular track, similar in toe-tapping style to White Lightning. Just as the theme of the album seems set, Back To You appears to upend expectations. It's a wistful ballad - and a very good one. Then it's back to another fine slice of rockabilly with Cindylou.

I Want It All rocks the album to what should be its natural conclusion, but just when it seems we have reached the end we are treated to a couple of blistering live covers and a final piece of Mighty Mojos blues/rock with You Wouldn't Treat A Dog Like That.

Seven of the tracks are penned by David McClean (with the credits for White Lightning shared by Alan Ward). The others are by Keb Mo (Am I Wrong), Tampa Red (Don't You Lie To Me), Robert Johnson (Come On In My Kitchen) and Muddy Waters (Can't Be Satisfied).

The influences are all there to see; aside from the artists covered, we can clearly see traces of the likes of Dr Feelgood.

Track List

White Lightning
Hook Line And Sinker
Come On In My Kitchen
Devil In Disguise
Back To You
Am I Wrong
I Want It All
Can't Be Satisfied (Live)
Don't You Lie To Me (Live)
You Wouldn't Treat A Dog Like That

Stand out tracks:  White Lightning, Back To You, I Want It All.

Further details about the Mighty Mojos are available on their official website.

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Chess Reviews: 211

ChessBase Magazine 152
There's little doubt about what represents the highlight of the new ChessBase magazine; it is definitely the coverage of the London Chess Classic. Magnus Carlsen won the event but he was pushed very close by Vladimir Kramnik.

Of particular interest are the 19 games presented with the audio versions of the post-match analysis, featuring the voices of the players themselves. On average, each post-mortem runs for 20+ minutes and they will surely stand the test of time as an important historical document. Nine of the London games have conventional annotations, provided by a variety of commentators. I always like to head first for the notes by the players themselves as they are often the most illuminating.

Here are two snippets which I found interesting.

Adams v Polgar
Adams looked to be in complete control throughout his smooth victory over Polgar, despite the latter making no obvious mistakes. According to Adams's annotations, the trouble started as early as the eighth move.

From the diagram, he played 8 Rd1 and adds the comment: ''This is the idea, I want to open the centre when my light squared bishop will keep a close eye on Black's queenside.'' Polgar replied with the natural 8 ...0-0, which Adams claims is already a mistake. ''From a practical and objective point of view, it was wise to try and impede my plan, as now the play becomes very one-sided. I had mainly analysed 8 ...Nd4! 9 Nxd4 cxd4 10 c4 in my preparation. After the knight moves away White will have a very comfortable Benoni but it's unclear if this is enough for an advantage.'' (1-0, 36)

Kramnik v McShane
This was a very impressive game by Kramnik. He now played 29 Ne3 ''which looks strong, but the computer found something simpler, as Kramnik explains: ''I was already looking for mate, not paying too much attention to the other side of the board, but in fact our silicon friend (enemy?) discovers a very nice geometrical motif instead: 29 b4! Qxb4 30 Rxd4 exd4 31 Qf4+ Kg7 32 Qxc7, winning.'' Later on, Kramnik admits to playing a move for surprise value with McShane's time almost out, ''hoping to win on time.'' It gave Black an unlikely resource which both players missed at the time, and the result wasn't affected. (1-0, 49) Nevertheless, it is encouraging for the rest of us that even the best players occasionally suffer from sloppy habits.

Elsewhere, there are reports on the FIDE Grand Prix (Tashkent leg, featuring Morozevich, Karjakin, Wang Hao...) and Bucharest (Ivanchuk, Topalov, Caruana, Nisipeanu) and plenty of games from other events (the main database includes 850 games in all).

As usual, the opening surveys present excellent and thought provoking analysis for the ambitious student. This time we are given the opportunity to find out more about the following lines:

Schipkov: English A31
1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e5 5.Nb5 d5 6.cxd5 Bc5 7.N5c3 0-0

Gormally: Pirc Defence B09
1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.f4 Bg7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Bd3 Na6 7.0-0 c5 8.d5 Rb8

Kuzmin: Caro-Kann B12
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.h4 h6 5.g4

Postny: Sicilian B30
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 e6 4.0-0 Nge7 5.c3 a6 6.Ba4 b5 7.Bc2 Bb7

Langrock: French C01
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.exd5 exd5 5.Bd3 Ne7

Kritz: French C16
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 Qd7

Breutigam: Trompowsky Attack D00
1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 (d5)

Marin: Slav D16
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bg4 6.Ne5 Bh5 7.f3

Krasenkow: Semi-Slav D31
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.e4 dxe4 5.Nxe4 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 Qxd4 7.Bxb4 Qxe4+

Schandorff: Semi-Slav D44
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bg5 dxc4 6.e4 b5 7.e5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Nxg5 hxg5 10.Bxg5 Nbd7 11.exf6 Bb7 12.g3 c5 13.d5 Qb6 14.Bg2 0-0-0 15.0-0 b6 16.Rb1

Grivas: Grünfeld Defence D85
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Nf3 c5 8.Bb5+

A further three surveys are given in video format and these are:

Shirov on 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 h3

Kritz on 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 g6 4 Bxc6 bxc6 5 0-0 Bg7

Bologan on 1 d4 d5 2 c4 c6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 e3 a6 5 Nf3 Bf5 

It's another very impressive edition of the ongoing magazine and one which should be of use and interest to players of all levels.

Monday 11 February 2013

Arbour Update

Well, it's certainly all happening for Bridie Jackson and The Arbour. There have been two updates since I posted the Scarecrow video this morning.

First of all, Radio Northumberland are going to broadcast last Friday's concert at 8.00 p.m. tonight.
The concert, at the Cluny 2 (Newcastle), was reviewed here.

Secondly, the Scarecrow CD, originally on sale just at the concerts, is now available to buy online. It's a strictly limited edition though, so a prompt purchase is recommended. Full details are available here.

Scarecrow Video

As promised yesterday, we now have the video for Bridie Jackson and The Arbour's new single. I hope you enjoy it.

My review of the single can be found here.

Sunday 10 February 2013

Bridie Jackson and The Arbour: Single Launch

Bridie Jackson and The Arbour
The Cluny 2, Newcastle

Just over a year had passed since my last visit to The Cluny. I was back again two nights ago to see a very special event.

Bridie Jackson and The Arbour followed up the release of their fabulous single - Scarecrow - with a short tour of North East England. They chose The Cluny for the single's official launch event.

Beccy Owen provided support with her very unusual and quirky musical tales.

Beccy was joined by Matt Stalker for her final song (Matt has appeared here at Marsh Towers twice before: here and here).

Beccy Owen's website is currently under construction but will hopefully be available soon. I look forward to seeing her again and exploring her music. I've made the point before, but it's worth repeating: North East England has a lot of musical talent and a thriving gig scene. Get out there and enjoy it!

Immediately prior to Bridie and The Arbour appearing on the stage, we were treated to the premiere of the video for Scarecrow. It's a wonderful piece of work and it will be posted here tomorrow.

As the applause and cheers threatened to lift the roof (the venue was jam-packed - completely sold out some time before the night) the quartet took to the stage and launched into their first song, a particularly strong rendition of Please Forgive Me My Human Ways, which ultimately segued very nicely into Dim Man. It was a typically powerful opening, playing to the strengths of Bridie's vocal dexterity.

Given the celebratory nature of the event, there was an increased amount of between-song jovial banter and a plethora of thanks to various people who have helped them on their remarkable journey.

This snippet, from Bridie, is a typical example: ''It's really lovely that you're here tonight, especially considering that Roy Chubby Brown is playing at the City Hall. I was concerned when I found out...that it was going to splinter my audience.''

Later on there was talk of expanding the range of Arbour merchandise, and that they were as yet undecided whether to go to down the ''practical'' or ''luxurious'' route, with two mooted sample items: ''a big old bag of salt grit with The Arbour written on the side'' and ''tiaras''. The audience, put on the spot during a spontaneous bout of informative consumer feedback, betrayed their North Eastern roots with an (almost) unanimous vote for the former, although the solitary, contrary voice of ''Andrew'' bravely piped up in favour of the latter.

Bitter Lullabies was next, closely followed by We Talked Again, which utilised another Arbour trademark - the belleplates.

The Scarecrow itself appeared next. It works very well played 'live' and represents an important addition to their repertoire.

Following Promises Are Broken, a new song appeared: Peace. Hopefully we are already seeing material which will soon form the nucleus of a new album. After New Skin (which ''once sent a man to sleep when we played it in Brighton'') and Crying Beast (a metaphor for unsolicited and invasive political literature) it was already time for ''final'' song - All You Love Is All You Are (the other song on the Scarecrow single) For the Arbour, that left just the encore of Mucky. 

Time had once again slipped by far too quickly, although Bridie remained - solo, on the stage - for one final number. With Bridie's mother in the audience, the occasion was right for a cover of one her favourite songs - The Ballad of Lucy Jordan (written by Shel Silverstein and originally recorded by Dr. Hook).

And thus ended another fine evening.

Keep up to date with the latest Bridie Jackson and The Arbour news over at their official website and don't forget to tune in to Marsh Towers tomorrow for the video of Scarecrow.

Saturday 9 February 2013

The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black
Darlington Civic Theatre
This was the second time I had seen the theatre version of The Woman in Black. The first was back in 2010 at the The Fortune Theatre (the ghost's natural habitat). Of course we've had the Hammer film version between then and now, and very good it was too. It interests me that the story can switch from book to play to film and still be successful.

It was good to see so many people in the audience at Darlington. Some of my recent Civic visits have been disappointing in terms of attendance (but not in terms of quality on the stage). There were plenty of younger visitors too - there appeared to be at least two coach trips in that night - which was very good to see. It also meant there were many authentic screams throughout the evening.

The play is effectively a two-hander, with Arthur Kipps and ''The Actor'' played by Julian Forsyth and Antony Eden respectively. I don't know who played the ghost - I just hope everyone else saw it too.

The main effects are achieved by exceptional lighting, with the manifestations of the ghost proving to be perfect crowd-scarers. It's all genuinely creepy stuff (don't go and see this play if you own a rocking chair).

I'm pleased to say this version of The Woman in Black holds up very well on repeat viewing (as does the film).

Keep up to date with the tour dates by visiting the official website.

Here's the trailer to whet the appetite.

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Devon Allman: Turquoise

Devon Allman
This month sees the release of Devon Allman's first solo CD. Turquoise presents a set of up-tempo blues/rock songs with a personal touch, as Devon explains:

''These songs are very special to me. It's part 'dusty road driving music' and part 'tropical getaway' music. These are the stories, feelings and reflections from my last couple of decades of forging my musical path.''

When I Left Home blasts off proceedings in fine style, chronicling the singer/songwriter's journey from the age of 17 onwards. ''I wanted a song that really encapsulated my last 20 years'' - and it certainly does the job, with some great guitar licks along the way.

The autobiographical intent continues throughout the album, particularly on the likes of Don't Set Me Free and Time Machine (a slower, Clapton-style reflective number).

The story comes full circle with the closing number, Turn Off The World, with it's weary plea to be able to slow down at journey's end.

Track List

When I Left Home
Don't Set Me Free
Time Machine
Stop Draggin' My Heart Around
There's No Time
Into The Darkness
Key Lime Pie
Yadira's Lullaby
Turn Off The World

10 of the songs are Allman-penned originals (Mike Zitto shares the credits on Don't Set Me Free and Strategy, as does Tyler Stokes on There's No Time). There's a great cover of Tom Petty's Stop Draggin' My Heart Around, featuring a blistering vocal duet with Samantha Fish.

Stand out tracks: When I Left Home; Time Machine; Stop Draggin' My Heart Around.

Here's a pre-release taster of Turquoise to whet the appetite...

Turquoise will be released on 12 February. For further details, head for the official website.

Monday 4 February 2013

Further Reading

My reviews of The Magic Tactics of Mikhail Tal (New in Chess) and Kramnik: Move by Move (Everyman Chess) are both included in the new issue of CHESS magazine (February 2013).

For ordering details please visit the official site.