Category Archives: Folk

Cow live at Bed Bar, Woking – July 2011

“Cow” are an acoustic 4-piece soul and pop band with a California sound and a kinda sixties-style kookiness concealing a modish edge, flavoring both their sound and their image. This band would not seem out of place supporting The Mamas & the Papas  on the Ready Steady Go! show circa 1966…

The band has already ably supported the Woking ‘Modfather’ Paul Weller and has created quite a lot of buzz and excitement on the music scene. I went to see the band as they launched their superbly packaged “Sunrise” E.P at the sumptuous Bed Bar in Woking.

The band is seated in a half-circle and play acoustically, without drums. Female vocalist and guitarist – Maxine  – is located in the centre of the group, looking relaxed and regal. She provides the warmth and depth to vocals, but Mark and Ben (on guitars) provide some interesting harmonies and generally descanted sounds. Michael is twanging the bass guitar. They reminded me of the kind of band that would be warmly appreciated on the Val Doonican show! But their insightful lyrics and creative compositions, and the constant intertwining, reminded me more of songs by  Loves  Lee Arthur in Los Angeles in the 60’s … together with the delicate air of mystery that lies beyond every song, and the vaguely uncomfortable feeling you get when you realize that you are being  taken up the-garden-path by the lyrical sub-texts and the arrangements.

“Sunrise” the ‘Side A’ on Cow’s new E.P. is like a sixties fruit-cup of love. Not unlike anything by the Mamas & the Papas in aspirations or moodiness. At first glance, this could be put down as a light pop song, but by rubbing its delicate surface, it reveals darker secrets. There is a flourishing yet controlled burst of chukka-chukka rhythms set amongst a profusion of squelchy guitars, but the flamenco style beats and the pervasive chords get heads nodding and feet tapping.

“New Day” ( this song went town well at Wembley Arena when Cow supported Paul Weller) is a foam-wrapped eerily haunting song, shrouded in mysterious folksy froth. And ‘One in B’ sounded like a less funky ‘Long Train Runnin’ (‘Dooble Brothers’).  This song evoked (for me) memories of joss sticks, turtle-necks and snuggling up in your Afghan, on quilted cushions, listening to Jefferson Airplane.

“Get To Luv You” sounds every bit as dippy and preppy as anything by the Partridge Family – a saccharine sweet and high-pitched jaunt. If the haunting emotions bring a tear to your eye and a slight ache to your heart, never mind, because the songs are joyful and  tender enough to lighten your mood and put a shake in your hipsters. Perhaps I could have done with some keyboards to ‘flesh the sound out’ – it felt a little like a watercolor wash at times. But, nonetheless, enjoyable.

“Fragile Foundations” has lustrous autumn gold vocals from Maxine against mellow chords and feel good bass lines.  ‘leaving ain’t no good when you’re misunderstood‘ she sings, while lofty harmonies provided by Ben tend to lift you to a higher place.
Gentle ‘Donovan’ style sweet sixties vibrations linger long after in your mind, even once the sweet chorus finishes…

Passionate, inspiring, folksy, Amercican style sixties soul – from this intimate and creative group. For your gentler side!

© Neil_Mach
July 2011



Kindred Spirit at Staines Riverside Club

What can be better than sharing a well drawn pint or two with some like-minded friends, whilst listening to a quality live performance from some of the finest musicians in the business? The Riverside Club in Staines has been attracting some of the big names from the music world to its humble riverside home of late. Last Thursday the club welcomed through the doors the undeniable talent of locally based folk-rock band Kindred Spirit. Folk-Rock is experiencing something of a renaissance recently – Fairport Convention and Pentangle are still with us charming the audiences…  and now we have a new generation of groups like Mumford & Sons and Midlake to take us up to the next level, and some exciting and experimenting bands like Fleet Foxes, to reassure us the genre is far from dead.

Kindred Spirit (playing as a three piece at Staines Riverside Club) have those lush harmonies and emotional power  that you come to expect from this kind of group. The violin from Gavin Jones is exuberant and fresh and the feverish pipes and flute (and sax) from Annie Parker leaves you tingling inside. Across this chiming, piping-hot, spiky landscape comes the lush and gently unassuming vocals of Elaine Samuels, whose voice is reminiscent of the late Sandy Denny.

The first half of the set (before the club’s obligatory raffle) was vaguely ‘horse related’ and the second half was  ‘sea travel’  related. I do not know if this was planned or a happy accident. So, in the first half, we had such traditional-sounding delights as ‘The Galway Farmer’ (Devon folk duo ‘Show of Hands’ – 1992) with those scuffed and skiffling fiddles and ne’er-do-well jaunty pipes. And “A Horse with No Name” (‘America’ 1972) with those esoteric chords and the haunting sense of loss along with reverberant regret. In here too were some ambitious songs like Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ with some extremely enjoyable woven interplay from Annie and Gavin and Elaine’s voice perched high above – as teasing as a wood lark.

The second half incorporated plenty of sea-wall imagery. A perfect rendition of “Martha’s Harbour” (‘All About Eve’ – 1988) depicted the agony of waiting by the waves for a true love to return from across the churning sea. But this song was somewhat diminished by Kindred Spirit’s own composition “I’ll Always Love You” (from the “Dance of Life” album). This song reminded  me of Fleetwood Mac circa 1977 (the band often plays ‘The Chain’ to great applause at gigs,) but once it started, it settled down to a lustrous and emotive folk-rock ballad. Annie’s flute was like a sea-bird fluttering in the sea-breeze, but the power and surge of the fiddle was like the sea-spray fiercely spitting into your face. Luckily, Elaine’s deliciously smooth vocals took you back to an altogether warmer, more friendly and infinitely more welcoming place.  This was, for me, the high point of the evening.

Kindred Spirit’s own songs are full of mystery and magic. Their compositions are sometimes as haunting as a cold-dread phantom and at other times as fleet footed as a mountain gazelle. The clear articulation of Elaine’s vocals over and above the elaborate and intricate solos from Gavin and Annie, often leave you on the edge of your seat with excitement.

“Lady Eleanor” (Lindisfarne) started with an intro that reminded me of a (little slower) “Long Train Runnin “  (Doobie Brothers.) The original version had a more mystical East feel to it. The song immediately embarks upon a magical journey brought alive by the mysterious and foggy delights of Elaine’s silken, breathy vocals.

Lola (Kinks) was another popular cover.  Full of teasing and almost giggling violin and flute. Annie and Gavin provided quirky backing vocals. On the original song Ray Davies played a steel bodied resonator-type guitar on this track… which gives the song more pinch, pluck and plonk – the Kindred Spirit version is more whimsical lyrically and smoother instrumentally, with a much softer guitar sound from Elaine.

Finishing off the show with an exuberant version of Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl”, the audience was left stunned by a performance which was both truly refreshing and full of vigorous energy. An amazing evening.

You can see Kindred Spirit play with Blue Onyx (The Moody Blues Tribute Band) at The Leatherhead Theatre on Saturday 4 December. Or check their website for more local concerts. See links below.

© Neil_Mach
October 2010

The Eldon Arms        Reading        Sat 30 Oct
The Royal Oak         Berkshire     Sat 20 Nov
Leatherhead Theatre                    Sat 4 Dec

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Hanging Tree Band – Staines Riverside Club

Fire on the mountain, run boys run…

After a clunky start the Hanging Tree Band settled down to provide a generous concert in ‘three halves’ at the Riverside Club, Staines. For those with a keen ear for bariolage and a predilection for folk and rebel songs, this concert was a treat. For those who just enjoy a toe-tapping evening and a jubilant jig,  this was a joy.

The HTB is a duo. Gangling, lanky ‘front man’ Francis MacNamara simply amazes with the violin and provides most of the voice. He also pulls out some whistles for a couple of songs.  Daffydd Tavinor seated throughout, plays guitar and sings too.  But above all, he provides the percussive element, with hits, punches and chops on guitar – performed like a flamenco player-  and he also thrums a djambe drum or taps a tambo from time-to-time.

The two singers are balanced, and although not surprisingly good, however, are ready and effective in their delivery. (Although, to be fair, the sound quality of their vocals may have had more to do with the poor microphones they were using on the night rather than limitations with their vocal ability.)  For comparisons think ‘The Pogues’ mixed with the ‘Foggy Mountain Boys’. Abundant lyrical melodies and purposeful harmonies provided a fresh and lively show.

Standard fayre included crowd pleasers like “Whiskey in the Jar” and “The Irish Rover”, but the band often amazed the happy crowd with sensitive and riveting versions of songs like “Paint It, Black” (The Rolling Stones) and “Eleanor Rigby” (The Beatles). They even performed their own hummable version of “Jolene” (Dolly Parton) – sung by Daffydd.

Throughout the concert, Francis provided convincing and blazing violin. From pulsating vibrato to wistful harmonics, his ‘rate of attack’ can be alarmingly fast (jigs) and yet at other times eloquently drawn out (ballads), with plenty of show-off shuffles along the way. Obviously, he could perform fiddle attacks on songs like “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”  (Charlie Daniels Band)  but was also highly entertaining in songs like “Ring of Fire” (Johnny Cash) where the violin sensually entwines and weaves around the guitar, illuminating the melody. Striking fluctuations in tempo were often achieved and HTB were equally at home in the jazz/light pop world as they were in folk/country territory. For example, “Ain’t No Sunshine” (Bill Withers) allowed the duo to  show off their sensitive side and create some catchy and complex textures.

A thoroughly enjoyable performance, and I hope these boys find time to ‘Hang Out’ in Staines again soon!

© Neil_Mach
August 2010


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Sam Pickett and Suicide Si at The Hobgoblin, Staines JUN 24

Sam Pickett is a master of the deeply romantic and passionate torch song, but without the nauseating mawk. At times the trembling beauty of his songs reach unassailable highs- and at these times the pain gnaws deep into the heartstrings like a stiletto. As each song unfurls, the listener feels more-and-more as if he or she is sliding towards an evermore gaping precipice – from which the only salvation is to fall into the depth of his kindness, and higher rebirth. Such is the emotional intensity. But this sentimentality is without pain. That’s because Sam laces his work with a dark fondant humour and a generous twinkle in his eye. The humour helps you to stay on the upside of tragedy and the mellow side of drama. Yep, Sam is the kinda guy who has six sugars in his morning cap, treacle on his toast and sugar on his sugar puffs – and sings the kind of songs that are even sweeter, but there is a good balance between darkness and light, between humour and the moribund and between optimism and unrequited love. Songs like ‘Moonlit Soul’ or ‘Siren’ are sensuous and painful at times,  but you never feel choked with depression and guilt, but instead you are lifted higher than you ever expected, and onto a sojourn towards an esoteric plane within his sadly painted world – full of red-rose petals and spikes of anguish.  Adding depth and warmth to the performance of troubadour Sam was a guest appearance by Lily D’cruz with her epic and eloquent cover of the Ryan Tedder (OneRepublic) and Beyoncé number “Halo.”  Truly unforgettable.

Something completely different, Weybridge based punk and rap folker Suicide Si is less formal, more rambunctious and his songs were laden with profane observations and introspective commentary. Imagine the mutant offspring of Johnny Cash and Eminem to get the idea. Fast-paced and choc-a-bloc with allusion and reference, the work was as characteristic as it was playful and as consistently creative as imagination allows. He looks like a gingery-blonde rasta on a guitar stool, his pallid hypnotic eyes swirl around the Hob stage like plates on a stick, as he shoots through his gig as if he was performing a commando raid on your sensibilities. Non stop, fast as lightning, take-no-prisoners, by the numbers, action-packed folk for the hardcore punk generation. Songs like ‘No Sense’ and ‘Skizm’ were heartfelt and sincere, but were also touched with lightly ironic dabs of humour and tell-tale streetwise insights, and so were the perfect antidote to the ‘old style’ traditional one-man-and-his-guitar folksy protest songs.  Si incorporates ska punk with a dashing flair and mastery into his solo act- in a way, I guarantee, that you have never witnessed before.

© Neil_Mach
June 2010


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Paul Saxby at The Hobgoblin, Staines – May 23

I once heard Zakk Wylde  ( with Nick Catanese)  play a stripped down acoustic version of the BLS hit “Stillborn” and this memory kept haunting me as I watched Paul Saxby play at The Hob Staines. Yeah, OK, the string-work doesn’t quite compare, but you really get the feeling that these two rock hounds share the same experiences of anguish and despair. And they seem to share a secret desire to just get up off the stool and belt the hell out of a song – preferably with a huge and thunderous backline.

Moping about in the low chords- “Why Can’t We Just Get Along?” Because we’re programmed to function- sings Paul and you know where his heart is at. This song can be seen as mournful but it also chugs along with a ‘proper’ rock riff and shrugs its shoulders at any folk aspirations. And Paul’s big number is ‘Social Casualty’ – a buzzingly busy beat-pop song with a catchy and memorable chorus that makes the most of the time it spends  in your head by burning deep into your synapses.

The good looking and cheerful Staines crowd also loved the excellent howling cover of “Seven Nation Army”. And whilst we are on the subject of the ‘White Stripes’ it is worth mentioning that Paul pays more than a passing resemblance to Mr Jack White.

Sometimes an array of vocal effects tends to hide the size and character of shiny supple voiced Paul, but nevertheless the results are often moving, always interesting, never corrupted.  Paul uses his expressive voice to interrogate social ideas and his voice has an appealing edge against the contrasting tonal sounds picked up by his acoustic guitar.  Climaxes are often fought over and cried for, a sense of audacity pervades every movement and composition. The performance was neatly concluded with a respectable version of the first success story in the  ‘folk rock’  annals,  “The House of the Rising Sun.”

Paul Saxby is a versatile and an uncommonly appealing singer of songs. Highly recommended.

© Neil_Mach
May 2010


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Haydon’s Place – The Hobgoblin, Staines APR 01

Absurdly good looking Surrey band Haydon’s Place (named after a charming street in Guildford) brings to mind those influential Canadians “The Band” or even the sixties legends “The Byrds”. Their top-notch quality folk-rock sounds seem to be driven by those old style “collegiate folk” melodies and harmonies.  So easy to slip into. Like a big duvet full of sensual sound. Restful and relaxing.

The skillful combination of rhythm and blues fused with American folk melodies and soulful harmonic style country-rock is evoked by Christian on keyboards and vocals, Antonio on joyful lead guitar, Steve on percussion and Terry on bass.

Christian is tall and lanky, curly mopped and smiling – and brings to mind a more serious ‘Mika’. But his voice sounds very much like Welsh rock band ‘Budgie’ lead singer Burke Shelley (check out the Budgie classic “Parents” to see what I mean.)  Or even Rush’s Geddy Lee, if that kinda thing floats your boat. Christian’s distinctive honey sweet eagle soaring voice complements and adds soulful relish to each masterful song.

Antonio plays in an unhurried and confident style, his licks gracefully arching and falling like an exalted crane. No technical wizardry but sweet, quiet and lovely instrumentation.  Bass and percussion are played superbly, with great feeling. But even if there are no obvious fireworks or whooshing rockets of sound, this is not mediocrity – it is fulfilled and controlled musicality full of passion and creativity.

The dirtied up pure folk-rock sound provides ample opportunities for some swaying, cuddling-up and gentle pecking. Their warm-hearted songs- sung with grace and satisfying clarity-  often vividly embody luminescent peaks of sound  and gentle choruses, to warm those hard-up cockles. The crowd at The Hob Staines, just lapped it all up like Cheshire cats on the cream.

A jubilant audience found themselves swaying and dancing in the aisles. And the queue (at the end of the performance) for the band T’s and CD’s twisted round the Staines venue like a python ravels itself around an exotic dancers thigh.  This band is gonna be big.  Mark my words.

Haydon’s Place is all jangly, sure-footed, run-out-and-buy stuff – this music is played with a sweet heart  and an enthusiasm for highborn Americana – crafted with love and genuine emotional attachment.  My only negative criticism is that the lads new single  ‘Distance ‘  is a tad too obvious and far too cheesy for my taste … in fact all I wanna do is  “runaway runway”  each time  I  hear  it  . . .

Joyful pop for a new beat generation.

© Neil_Mach
April 2010

Next live at:

Apr 30 2010     8:00PM  Plantation     Guildford


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The James Warner Prophecies – Hob Staines

the James Warner PropheciesThe quixotic charm of The James Warner Prophecies is that their music contains a myriad of styles, oeuvres and impressions – much like J-Rock –  but theirs is less disposable pop in style and more harmonic indie in ambition. Thus we get thick slices of American Punk (i.e. think ‘Bad Religion’) laced generously with Brit indie folk sound reminiscent of ‘The Magic Numbers’.

So with The James Warner Prophecies you get melodic singing together with hardcore drum beats and haunting flute.  Yeah, I know it shouldn’t work. But it does.  Just.  Sometimes you feel poised on the edge of something a little too grand and opulent to be really honest …  but then the twinkle-in-the-eye  gentle humour of the band shines through,  and the result is an agreeable love fest of sound and virtue.

Benign Rasputin-like figure Joe Brown is the mighty front-man power-house lead singer/guitar of the band. Striding about the stage looking like a kindly ginger version of Edward Teach (the notorious pirate) – with an enormous burning red beard and a savage glint in his cruel eye. Instead of cutlass and sword, though, we get electric mandolin & guitar – but the results are similarly battle hardened with an abundance of inventive fireworks from the fret-boards and vindictive encounters with the spiteful strings of the mandolin.

Bringing some calm and beauty to the proceedings, Kate Rounding plays a mournful flute on many songs, plus the haunting chords on Korg. I understand Kate also adds violin to the mix – but we didn’t see her fiddle at The Hob. Lanky long-haired hippy Matt Anthony adds some low inventive and, ultimately, reassuring bass to the songs and the ‘Noel Fielding’ look-alike Dan Williams in assured and competent on drums.

The band moved ruthlessly from song-to-song keeping up the pressure and starting with an appropriately named tune ‘Braincell Piracy’ before launching into ‘King of The Killers’, then onto ‘Judas Stone’ and ‘The Itch’. The big end to the show was their ‘Set The World on Fire’ track (the unimaginatively named) ‘Mandolin Song’. This song has some fierce fretting from Joe (on mandolin) with audacious flares of light and fire from Kate and plenty of pounding crashing percussion from Dan and Matt. A truly exciting and heart pummelling joy of a song.

From my own point of view, I would prefer something a bit more languid and soulfully helpful from Kate (at times it seemed like her contributions were repetitive and almost go through-the-motions routine in content) and I would also like a little less sympathy from the band for the folk-country traditions of their home county (Derbyshire) and a little more hard driving rock from the ensemble … but that is just my personal taste.

Overall, though, the band makes a positive contribution to the Rock / Folk Rock scene. The band members are a jolly hardworking crew with a capable and naturally talented energy. I Strongly recommend that you see their live show soon.

© Neil_Mach
October 2009


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