Earl Gray, of the Association for the Preservation of Staines Moor, gave a talk this week to residents of Moor House in Staines.
Staines Moor is the largest Commons in the area. Earl reminded residents that the facility is only 100 meters from their door.
This 1,269 acre [513 hectares — the Site of Special Scientific Interest also includes the King George VI Reservoir] is a local treasure.
It’s home to 330 different plants, some species rare both nationally and internationally, also between 60-70 species of birds, especially waders, and lots of other unusual wildlife.
The grassland is home to one of the largest yellow ant colonies in Europe.
This important local habitat has a 1000 year history — the 289 acres of common land is dissected by the River Colne and The Bonehead Ditch and is bordered by the Wraysbury River — although the moor is much older, and was probably used by Neolithic man, detailed records go back to around 1500.
Earl explained that a Court Leet is still held frequently. The last year Court Leet was held in Staines-upon-Thames last year. This ancient court dates back to medieval England, when the Lord of the Manor exercised certain rights over his tenants concerning the administration of the manor and the moor. Twelve moormasters are appointed — they manage the grazing of the moor for the 200 ‘commoners’ who regularly use it. However, the moor is free for all visitors and is much loved by dog lovers and nature enthusiats. If you haven’t been yet — it is well worth a trip.
Earl suggested to the audience that the future of Staines Moor is precarious: the most obvious threat is the third planned runway at Heathrow and also the sixth possible terminal. He fears that perhaps 60% of our moor might vanish — lost in the construction of airport facilities.
Earl summed up saying that he has spent 47 years of his life protecting and promoting the moor. He hopes that this important conservation area will remain an accessible nature reserve for many future generations to come.
You didn’t see it. You weren’t there. You can only imagine — You shoulda been there, man…
For those people who still support live music in Staines, last night’s show at the RIVERSIDE CLUB was a treat.
The terrific CASE HARDIN were in town — they are signed to Clubhouse Records, named after a character in Boston Teran’s thriller “God Is A Bullet” and onto their fourth album “Colours Simple.”
This was the standout gig of the year.
We had already seen this band [whose main songwriter Pete Gow has been described by Q magazine as “a songwriter like no other”] at the “Down By The Riverside” blue-grass night. Then we were totally immersed in the Vermilion River muddiness, and the sweetly drooled guitar. We thought their songs “convinced and anointed us...”
We have been looking forwards to the return of these Americana & country rock paragons.
After a rousing start, the band brought us into a private world of feverish imagination — “Fiction Writer” — one of a selection of numbers from the new songbook.
This brushed across the room, soft yet edgy. The lyrics were filled with potential heartache. Every note shook us with emotional upset.
We also enjoyed “First to Know” — the ever-building song from the “Every Dirty Mirror” album that includes the scrabble word “stanchions.” The choppy texture of guitar on this number reminded us of Denny Laine.
After discussing the merits of Scottish gin [Isle of Harris is apparently taken with a slice of pineapple on the Outer Hebrides ] we savoured the hoppy upbeat number “The Streets are Where the Cars Are (The Bars are Where the Girls Will Be.)”
This has super-efficient keyboard work from Roland and schmaltzy lines of guitar from the talented Jim Maving. This band’s sounds are distinctively dry with a peppery aftertaste and gooseberry hints. Maybe HARDIN CASE are the musical equivalent of a sip of gin on the bitter Western Isles…
After the break the band returned to treat us to a selection of acoustic covers. They ventured “into the crowd” — up-close and personal. It was a moving experience. The first song they played was “Carmelita”.
“Warren Zevon is a great inspiration and influence for us.” Said vocalist and frontman Pete Gow. “And if you don’t know who he is — then maybe the last hour has been a complete mystery to you…”
This number was brilliantly performed and properly ardent.In fact, it was the most exciting song of the night. Tim Emery played upright bass [“Cor that’s a big one...” shouted one wisecracker) while Roland Kemp, the band keyboardist played timbrel and provided sweet backing vocals.
If you can imagine something like the poetry of Bob Dylan peformed with the heart of Tom Petty and, perhaps, the merest hint of super-dry Johnny Cash with the fruitful finish of Leonard Cohen, then you might get somewhere near to the angled beauty and detailed instrumentation of CASE HARDIN.
But, in reality, these guys are like nothing else …
This week — still celebrating a “Month Montage of Blues” in STAINES — we went to the RIVERSIDE CLUB to see the FRAN MGILLIVRAY band (with Mike Burke.)
Fran is the bassist with the colourful and expressive voice who adds energizing structure to the blues-tunes she performs. Fran plays alongside the great talent of Mike Burke, on guitar.
Fran started playing folk, roots and blues music in the late 1970s with Mike Burke, and appeared at the Cambridge Folk Festival in 1977 following the release of the album “Into the Light.”
The band have recently been mixing their new album [Riverside Club favorite Alan Glen is a guest on the recording) so we were pleased they chose to play a couple of songs from the upcoming release including “When, when, when.”
This is a song about looking back to a time before gadgets and smart-phones. When forming and maintaining relationships was perhaps easier (who knows?) This was a cool number, full of expression and a touch of yearning.
We loved the choppiness of numbers like “Hard Working Woman.”
Fran’s vocals on this song reminded us of Elkie Brooks during her Vinegar Joe days. We also enjoyed the fluency on tracks like the ‘Little Walter‘ standard “Blues with a Feeling” — although we could have done with harmonica for this one.
In the 1990s Fran and Mike formed the urban blues band “So Long Angel” and they played us the showy and vibrant “Ecstasy” from that period. It was filled with a fusion of jazz and psychedelia and was our favorite number.
In amongst the jazz-tinged songs and country-blues offerings — all played with nuanced voice and robust bass lines from Fran and expressive finger style from Mike — was a handful of rhythm and blues numbers, such as Rufus Thomas danceable “Walking the Dog” with sexy bass notes and flames of guitar.
We also loved the Fran McGillivray version of “Not Fade Away” with its rough sharpness, Bo Diddley beat (enriched by percussionist Roger Nunn) and very pleasant, languid voice.
This was a positive, upbeat and mellow show full of curative simplicity and subtle reflection.
The excellent Staines Riverside Club is hosting a “Month Montage of Blues” — four Blues acts of high quality, hand-picked by the promoters, one for each Thursday evening during the month of September. You’ve probably seen the posters all around town.
This Thursday we enjoyed the Ali Maas band with Alan Glen and Micky Moody (guesting.)
The band more-or-less kicked off their set in Staines with Don Bryant’s song “99 lbs” (made famous by The Black Crowes — but actually first released by Ann Peebles in 1971.)
It’s a song-choice that reminded us that ‘Big’ Mama Thornton [she originally recorded “Hound Dog” in 1952] weighed a mere 99 lbs at the time of her death in 1984. This brings unexpected heartache to the songline: “Ninety-nine pounds of soul, oh, oh.”
It is worth reminding ourselves that women blues singers like Big Mama, plus Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, Lena Horne and, of course, “Lady Day” were among the most powerful and highest-paid entertainers of their day. These women ensured that the Blues remained a prosperous and potent art-form.
The soft-shoe number “Emotional Powder Keg Blues” was apparently written by Ali when she was going through a “bunny-boiler phase…” This number had pat-a-cake rhythms and expressive guitar-lines from Alan Glen.
One of Glen’s own compositions was the squelchy “No Time For You” whose rhythms and general 1970’s style reminded us of the bounce in “What’s the buzz?” That’s the song from the rock opera [Jesus Christ Superstar] that boasts the repeating percussive phrase: “Let me try to cool down your face a bit …”
On the Alan Glen number the main voice from Ali was jazzy… With wit and elegant passion in every phrase.
The organ notes (Pete Whittaker) were talkative and blabby and delivered the goods along with guitar. This was a great number to introduce the skills of each musician. Roy Parsons’s bass was particularly memorable — a self-propelled jumble of electric jiggles.
After the break we had “Son of a Preacher Man” recorded by Dusty Springfield in 1968 but initially offered to Aretha Franklin. [Aretha turned it down, but her sister Erma recorded it for Soul Sister.]
Ali’s vocal performance reminded us of Dusty. She possesses a similar density of voice: with husky lows, followed by dashes to high places and heartfelt persistence when the song requires a big push. To sing the blues you need resolution and resistance. Ali has these qualities in abundance.
Towards the end of this superior show in Staines Micky Moody came to the stage for the Muddy Waters number “I got my brand on you.” So, in effect, we had a “Million Dollar Sextet” in our club!
Who would not want to witness this incredible line-up and the resultant duel between the Yardbird’s blues harpist (Alan) and the lyrical guitar work from Whitesnake’s Moody? And, of course, all this excitement was decorated with sweet care by Ali.
This was probably one of the best evenings we have enjoyed at this club.
Next Thursday Fran McGillivray (with Mike Burke) make their first appearance. Not to be missed!
Last weekend we attended WEYFEST 2016 – it is the 10th Anniversary of this perfect family-friendly three-day festival held each year at the Rural Life Centre in Tilford, near Farnham in Surrey. We arrived on Saturday.
Opening the Main Stage at the Weyfest on Saturday was the superior SAIICHI SUGIYAMA band [@SaiichiSugiyamaBand] a Surrey outfit that was started by British blues guitarist Sugiyama in the late 1960s and early 1970’s.
Their funk/soul sounds are ornamented by rich and fluent guitar-work while the band also boasts some extraordinaryly talented female vocalists. For example, at the Beekeepers Stage we were entertained by the passionate Artze Monica and the Californian beauty Joanna Pearl. Songs like their “Somewhere Down The Road” possessed ribald squelches and fervent heat.
LEATHERAT have released five studio albums; most recently “Snake Eyes” but are really most famous as a ‘festival band.’
In fact the first time we saw their excellent show was at the Bearded Theory fundraiser in Guildford years ago. We also caught them at Cropredy. This year they have been exuberantly celebrating their tenth year in existence… though they have had a few ‘make-overs’ during the decade. We thoroughly enjoyed their impressive folk-rock show and loved Leon’s solo.
We were surprised how much we adored THE WURZELS. They were on after Leatherat. We hate to admit it, but this was the first time we had ever seen ’em.
Before this show we pretty much wrote off the West-country lads because we assumed [perhaps rightly] that they were just a ‘novelty band’ and it’s true their show at Weyfest was full of silliness and comedy. But actually, we dare suggest, they can actually play. And certainly they are great performers.
We were pleased to see that Darth Vader boogied to the silly beats. Incidentally, most of their melodies have been brazenly nicked from other more-famous numbers… then decorated with the legendary West Country burr.
We have been following Birmingham alt-rockers THE ROOZ for a while so we were pleased to see the lads at Surrey’s best music fest. Songs like their recent single “Puncture” had soaring heights and sparkling guitars.
Over at the Old Kiln Stage was the Surrey Hills Ukulele Big Band aka SHUBB. This orchestra of blighty souls armed with ukes and pipes entertained the ukulelian crowd with masterful professionalism.
Of course most revellers had come to see WISHBONE ASH and THE DARKNESS but there were plenty of other sights and smells to be enjoyed. Not least were the roaming daleks, The Racing Bug challenge [to win a scalextric] and even a Laser Quest area.
Our favorite side-show was the THE WIDDERS those purple-clad border Morris-Dancers from Chepstow [@TheWiddersBM] who stomped , cracked and clapped seven barrels of sh** out of each other.
We looked forwards to the show from blues singer JO HARMAN on Sunday. She drew a large crowd even though she was on stage early-on. Her songs, for example the Hendrixy number “The Reformation” got folk up and dancing… Jo is quite something! She is playing an extra special show at St John’s Church Godalming, October 14th. Info on her site.
On at the Old Kiln were Portsmouth’s indie rock ‘n’ rollers THE BAYONETTES whose complicated yet accessible songs were lucid and effective.
INGLORIOUS were unable to perform at Weyfest, due to illness/injury. Luckily, in their place we had the incredible BROKEN WITT REBELS [@BrokenWittRebelsUK] whose trusty-rusty roots ‘n’ ashes blues ‘n’ soul numbers oozed into our glands… It was as if we were seeing Led Zeppelin for the first time! Circa 1968. No I’m not kidding and this is not hyperbole. This young blues-rock band from Birmingham with the amazing Danny Core on vocals are that good!
After that we had the BLOW MONKEYS and the BOOMTOWN RATS to enjoy. This was an excellent festival. With artists of quality, lots to do and see (in addition to the music) plenty of good food and drink and expert organization and administration.
WEYFEST is probably the best managed event we have been to all year! So congrats to all the team at WEYFEST. Happy tenth anniversary.
Right, how does it go? “Ruby, ruby, ruby…. ooh arr — ooh arr — ooh arr ...”
This week, Down By The Riverside in Staines, we were wowed by THE LAVENS family. They had journeyed all the way from San Antonio, Texas to entertain us at one of our regular BlueGrass Sessions.
Brother Niko Laven, the tall singer/songwriter, accomplished guitarist and smooth vocalist possesses that calm bass-baritone voice you would probably associate with Johnny Cash.
[Check their orginal song ‘Shame On You‘ if you don’t believe us.]
Niko also provides a lot of vocal weight and drama to the LAVENS songs. There is a robust quality there that reminds us of Dan Tyminski.
Sister Rachel Laven is a whole other kettle of fish. Her vocals are cobweb thin and ephemeral at times. Yet, no less exciting and enchanting.
Her style sits part-way between the passionate fullness and delicate emotion of Stevie Nicks and the rootsy kookiness of Valerie June. But she is not a fragile little angel, no way. She has a cocky attitude that transfers itself into mischief with songs such as “Girls Do Too” — a.k.a the “Sh** Shower and Shave” song.
“We’re not quite Partridge Family —” Niko admitted, after delivering a blatantly rude lyric (from his Mom’s song, would you believe?) It utilised the concept of travelling “a dirt track” during lovin’ (We’ll leave it at that… shall we?)
Joining this incrediblly talented duo on stage in Staines was Momma LAVEN — Jana. She provided backing vocals. “It makes your heart swell —” She told the Riverside crowd, “For a mother to listen to her own child playing a guitar solo like that … to one of her own songs.”
Papa had to fly back to Texas, though. So we missed Andreasand his bass.
However, even as a tight trio their songcraft was faultess, the delivery exemplary and the performance magical.
The wonderful English act, THE ROSELLYS presented us with a brilliant warm-up show, before they joined THE LAVENS on stage for a final rousing sing-song.
This band have been an essential part of the UK roots scene for years. With fiddle-play by Simon and intricately weaved vocal and guitar majesty from Rebecca.
This was a quality night of Americana Down By the Riverside.
With stand-out performances by two inspirational acts.
Thanks again to the wonderful STAINES RIVERSIDE CLUB for hosting an evening of such memorable entertainment.
Meal Ticket were a country rock band that played the London pub circuit in the late 1970s. The Canadian performer Rick Jones wrote many of their songs.
Steve Simpson and Willy Finlayson played guitars (plus additional instruments ) in the original squad and are still going strong — now performing together in the band-project known as ‘HALF MEAL TICKET.’
Willy takes center stage and plays acoustic rhythm guitar. He still provides most of the lead vocals, though ocassionally defers to Steve. Steve, meanwhile, takes on the electric lead guitar.
The last time we saw HALF MEAL TICKET at Staines Riverside Club they boasted the fabulous Nigel Portman-Smith on bass.
Now Nigel has retired from music, and we wish him well. In his place this Thursday was the esteemed blues bassist Malcolm Hoskins — a long-time friend and collaborator of Steve Simpson.
Completing this all-chordophone line-up was the excellent lead guitarist Dean Barnes. We last saw Dean in action performing with LIZA MARSHALL and the Smokey Turtle Band [reviewed here: https://staines.me/2016/06/03/liza-marshall-]
The show kicked-off with the sensational Singalong classic: “It’s All Over Now.”
The band gave us motoring rhythms, jangling strings and the first fine harmonies of the evening.
Both Steve and Willy are passionate vocalists. Steve’s voice has dark amber gravitas with tobacco edges. Whilst Willy’s is less rough — more fervent.
“Look Good In Blue” had scintillating guitar-work from Dean and an ‘Ain’t No Sunshine‘ riff. We spoke to someone who seemed convinced that this number was originally performed by the hard-bop drummer Grady Tate.
The show continued to be an exploration of truly great, but rarely covered gems. Such as “She Will Be Loved” [Maroon 5] and the Billy ‘The Kid’ Emerson number “Crazy ‘Bout An Automobile (Every Woman I Know)” which was made famous by Ry Cooder in 1980.
At times the band sounded very similar to Dire Straits. (With the two Knopfler-like guitarists duelling it out.) But HALF MEAL TICKET produce more “rootsy” tones than most pub rock bands and their renditions are filled with deep soul and meaning.
Although improvisations seemed scarce, with few ‘blowing’ guitar breaks, nevertheless it seemed obvious that the band were merely ‘jamming along’ at times. The lack of smooth transitions between songs and no obvious pre-agreed set-list made the show a little less polished than perhaps really necessary — although it was never actually chaotic.
As one observer put it, “Once they get going they are better-than-good… But it takes more than a while to get themselves into things …”
The stand-out song of the second half was the Springsteen number “Hungry Heart” [originally written for The Ramones and recorded by The Boss in 1980.] Here the audience at Staines was encouraged to clap and sing along. Soft and kindred guitar lines were eased out by Dean and Steve and sparkled in the warm summer air.
This was yet another lovely evening at Staines Riverside Club spent in the company of some really versatile and thorougly entertaining musicians.