Wednesday 26 February 2014

New Music: Reviewing Soon

More new music has arrived at Marsh Towers.

Reviews are coming soon...


Scott Lloyd: The Northern Gate

The Northern Gate
Scott Lloyd
Haling from Teesside - specifically Middlesbrough - and currently based in Manchester, Scott Lloyd is a folk singer/songwriter unafraid to flaunt his Northern roots.

The Northern Gate is his second release and it should go some way to raising his profile.

Track List

Lock The Door
Morning Light
The Northern Gate
Stay With Me

Lock The Door is all about leaving to find a better life. The tempo is upbeat and the song delivers with a strong and catchy chorus and a good platform to showcase Scott's guitar skills. Morning Light is a love song, again uptempo. Despite the bittersweet nature of the lyrics, it's an uplifting song.

Somewhere is a counterpoint to Morning Light, featuring a slower pace and a tale of regret over a love definitely lost. Punctuated by several outbreaks of harmonica, this is undoubtedly the song which draw the most obvious to other well-known folk singers. Yet - accomplished and good though it certainly is - I prefer Scott's more original-sounding songs, such as Lock The Door and the The Northern Gate

The latter is a journey song, in both the physical and emotional sense, with the narrative detailing the act of moving on, and learning from personal mistakes. It's the most original sounding song of the five and the most complex, musically. The saxophone lifts the song in all the right places.

Stay With Me is a simple and short ballad, offering a straightforward, simple and self-explanatory plea. It's a worthy counterpoint to the more involved tracks.

Scott's talents are not confined to writing original folk songs (all five here were self-penned). He played all of the instruments himself and produced the EP too. Impressive!

The Northern Gate is released on Monday 10 March. Fancy trying something fresh and original? You could a lot worse than investigate Scott's new music.

Follow Scott's news and tour dates over at his official website.

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Little Devils: About Time

Little Devils
About Time
Little Devils - formed in 2010 - have just released their third CD. About Time features six songs plus an alternative version of the opening track, The Waiter.

Track List

The Waiter (Sax Version)
Good Times
Hang My Head
No Love Lost
Walking Disaster
Another Pack of Lies
The Waiter (Harp Version)

It's 21st Century Blues; busy, energetic songs - instantly catchy, yet with plenty of depth and scope to reward repeat playings.

The Waiter (Sax Version) is a terrific opening statement of intent. The sax is utilized frequently and effectively, soaring above the solid rhythm and driving guitar. Meanwhile, Yoka's powerful, bluesy voice demands the listener's attention and keeps it held firmly throughout.

The frantic pace drops - bit only slightly - for the Good Times, a plea for ''a little sunshine'' to recover from ''another broken heart in a world that's full of pain''.

Hang My Head is one the slower numbers on the EP. A song of regret, it builds from blues ballad to a satisfying conclusion. No Love Lost is in a similar style, at least initially, but the guitar drives it onward and upwards to a faster pace.

Walking Disaster is one of the catchiest songs. The piano and sax transport the listener to an earlier time - smokey bar rooms, slinky vocals and a large slice of swagger.

Another Pack Of Lies is a blues ballad confirming the range of Little Devils. Yoka's voice and melancholy sax are well up to the task of presenting the bitter sweet tale.

The Waiter (Harp Version) brings the EP (almost) back to where it started. The alternative version works well, offering the listener a sense of familiarity combined with a certain freshness. It made me want to replay the whole lot through immediately, which I duly did.

Fittingly, the subject of time manifests itself throughout the EP. Indeed, the band's own notes highlight desire to showcase their musical development over the last couple of years. Concluding with an alternative version of the opening song brings the subject of time back with a satisfying full circle.

Good Times are not confined to song titles; this is an impressive and original set of songs, delivered with aplomb and whetting the appetite for more.

Little Devils must be great live. Hopefully I'll get the chance to see them some time in 2014.

Keep an eye on their official website for the latest Little Devils news.

Monday 24 February 2014

CSC Teesside Update, Spring 2014

CSC Teesside Update
Spring 2014

It's been a very busy start to 2014 and a lot has happened since the last update.

We enjoyed an excellent and informative CSC conference in Birmingham over half-term and this was swiftly followed by a training day at Teesside's Barclaycard base.

Barclaycard are sponsoring the brand new online chess initiative, Yes2Chess. In addition to the online tournament - which will feature teams of children from eight countries - Barclaycard are in the process of allocating volunteer helpers to assist with the chess tutors in our CSC schools.

In order to get the volunteers ready for action, Andrew Moore (Yes2Chess Head of Volunteering) and John Foley (Chief Trainer for the CSC) delivered a full day of chess instruction on Teesside.

The volunteers were given the opportunity to learn the basics of chess, try out numerous mini-games and solve various problems.

As the photos show, the volunteers all seemed to enjoy the challenging day.

All volunteers are now ready for action in the schools of Teesside!

Sunday 23 February 2014

Nine Below Zero With Ben Waters

Nine Below Zero and Ben Waters
Spa Hotel, Saltburn
It was great to see Nine Below Zero back on Teesside once again, following their most recent appearances at the Guisborough Rhythm and Blues Festival (2011) and The Arc in (2013).

As usual, their own brand of rock, rhythm and blues kept the lively audience entertained for a full two and a half hours.

The set list was tailored to accommodate Boogie-Woogie pianist Ben Waters and another special guest, Tom Waters (son of Ben) on saxophone.
At just 13 years old, Tom is clearly destined for a bright future. ''We're lucky it's half-term, so he can play,'' quipped Nine's frontman Dennis Greaves.

Coming up next is a tour with The Stranglers and there will be another tour later in the year, featuring former drummer Mickey Burkey. In their 35th anniversary year, Nine Below Zero are busier than ever. Follow the news over at their official website.

Saturday 22 February 2014

Bridie Jackson and The Arbour Campaign - Success!

As previously mentioned, Bridie Jackson and The Arbour are in the process of raising funds to make a video for ''We Talked Again''.

The campaign has been a great success and, event though there is still a week to go, the initial target of £2000 has been smashed.

Funds surplus to the original aim will be used to fund another video for the single they will release after ''We Talked Again''.

New products have been added to the campaign page, so there is still time and incentive to support this exciting project.

Head here for the campaign page.

Monday 17 February 2014

London Bass Guitar Show 2014

The London Bass Guitar Show of 2013 was one of my favourite events of the year.

There was so much going on, including Masterclasses, stage performances and a chance to try out a large number of instruments. All for a bargain price of £20 per day.

I met - among others - luminaries such as Jah Wobble, Buzz Campbell and the legendary Stray Cat Lee Rocker.
Lee and Buzz tearing it up!
The 2014 show is on the weekend of 1-2 March and is once again at the Olympia. Headliners include John Taylor and Jack Bruce.

Further details are available over at the official website and the Facebook page.

Saturday 15 February 2014

New Music: Reviewing Soon

Three new CDs have arrived at Marsh Towers.

Reviews will follow soon...

Friday 14 February 2014


An inspirational sunrise, captured this morning.

Thursday 13 February 2014

Bridie Jackson and The Arbour Project Update

Last week we reported on the latest project featuring Bridie Jackson and The Arbour. They are raising money for a video for their fabulous song, ''We Talked Again.''

With 17 days still to go, they are already up to 83% of their financial target.

Further details, including the full list of rewards available for pledges, can be found here.

Here's their previous video:

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown: Goin' To The Delta

Goin' To The Delta
Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown

It's been 10 months since we last reviewed Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown. Now they are back, with a self-confessed blend of ''Shuffles, Boogies and Blues'' in the true Delta tradition.

Goin' To The Delta is released today and it sees the group going all the way back to their roots.

''When I started the band back in 1965,'' says, Simmonds, ''the concept was to be a British version of a Chicago blues band.''

There's been a lot of water under the bridge since then, but the essential style, the core of what Savoy Brown set out to achieve, is still very much in evidence.

''Now we've come full circle...the songs, and playing, on this album are straightforward in focus and as basic as the blues should be.''

Track List

Laura Lee
Sad News
Nuthin' Like The Blues
When You've Got A Good Thing
Backstreet Woman
Goin' To The Delta
Just A Dream
Turn Your Lamp On
I Miss Your Love
Sleeping Rough
Going Back

All were written by Kim Simmonds.

Although Savoy Brown has seen many changes in personnel (only Simmonds has remained constant), the group on this album is essentially the same as it was for the last (live) album, Songs From The Road, namely: Kim Simmonds - guitar, vocals; Pat DeSalvo - bass, vocals; Garnett Grimm - drums.

With the rhythm section admirably anchoring each song, Kim's exemplary guitar is allowed free reign to wander wherever it feels like going.

Delta blues should, almost by definition, contain elements of the fiery, passionate, introspective and soulful. Savoy Brown repeatedly deliver the goods - and in style.

Stand out tracks:  Laura Lee; Nuthin' Like The Blues; Goin' To The Delta

Keep up to date with new and tour dates over at the official Savoy Brown website. There should be some exciting developments as the band countdown to their 50th anniversary!

Tuesday 11 February 2014

Chess Reviews: 233

ChessBase Magazine #158
The new issue of ChessBase Magazine is packed full of all the usual features, from tournament reports to opening surveys, middlegame tactics and endgame strategies.

The headline item this time is undoubtedly the coverage of the World Championship battle between defending champion Vishwanathan Anand and challenger - and overwhelming favourite - Magnus Carlsen.

Daniel King's video reports on the title bout are the top highlight of the issue. His polished style of delivery is tailor made for this sort of video coverage. His videos never outstay their welcome but they do a wonderful job of describing the salient moments of each game.

Coverage of the title match permeates other areas of the magazine too. Indeed, every phase of the battle is placed under the microscope.

The opening of game 9 (Nimzo-Indian, 4 f3) is analysed  by Lev Gutman. Anand developed a strong-looking attack in that game, although Carlsen seemed - ultimately - to have an answer to everything thrown at him by the defending champion. Gutman believes there was an early improvement that may have caused Carlsen more problems.
Anand vs. Carlsen
Anand's 13 Ra2 is the move I suspect most would play here (to swing the rook across to e2, in preparation of the e3-e4 push). However, Gutman prefers 13 Rb1 and offers a correspondence game (Napolkov vs. Bauer) as evidence of White's potential (although White played inaccurately and Black drew fairly comfortably).

 Dorian Rogozenco analyses some interesting moments from game 5.

Carlsen vs. Anand
 Carlsen has just played 45 Bh7. The position is heading for a draw, but Anand's dubious reply - 45 ...Rc1+?! - started a gradual drift to a painful and pivotal defeat. Rogozenco shows the simple improvement 45 ...Ra1!, attacking the a-pawn. Now 46 Kb2 runs into 46 ...Ra2+ when the white kingside pawns become easy targets and 46 Bg8+ Kc6 47 Bxb3 is met by 47 ...Rxa3!, utilising an important pin and keeping the draw well within reach.

Discussion of the fifth game is continued by Karsten Mueller, who is in his element as he demonstrates improvements in Anand's disastrous rook and pawn endgame technique.

Carlsen vs. Anand
There is only one way for Black to draw from this position and that is with 51 ...Re2!, with the sample line 52 a4 Rxe5 53 Kc4 Kc6 54 Rh6+ Kb7 55 a5 Re4+ 56 Kxc5 Re2 with a book draw. The point is that Black's king will deal with the a-pawn and his rook will keep the h-pawn under lock and key.
In the game, Anand stumbled with 51 ...Ke6? 52 a4 Kxe5 53 a5 Kd6 54 Rh7! and Black's pieces are suddenly unable to coordinate to stop the rook's pawns; his king is ''in the middle of nowhere'' and it is up to the rook to try and stop both the a-pawn and the h-pawn. A fruitless task; Carlsen won quickly from there.

It's the simplicity of the explanations I like. There's no fuss, no attempt to show off. The commentators get straight to the point and the lessons leave a lasting, uncluttered impression.

Other top events are given thorough coverage too. The European Team Championship and the World Team Championship. The stars were in action: Aronian, Kramnik, Nakamura, Adams et al.

The full list of opening surveys included in issue 158 - together with a free sample - can be found here.

As usual, ChessBase Magazine offers a very impressive array of top quality material at a very affordable price. An essential purchase!