Single Review: Andrew Combs – Blood Hunters

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Released: 3rd March 2017
Label: Loose (Europe)

He’s become known as the ‘modern, east Nashville Troubadour’; Andrew Combs is fast becoming the new face and sound of the Country/ Americana scene in the UK and the States.

The new single Blood Hunters is the leading track from his forthcoming album Canyons Of My Mind released April 2017 and is an insight into his finely crafted brand of alternative country.

Blood Hunters is a song about losing your mind. It is subtly dark in its lyrics but melodic and catchy in its delivery; an interesting and effective juxtaposition, which makes the sentiment all the more effective.

Combs said: “It came out in a haze of post tour blues; this being the 24-72 hours after you get home from tour in which you find yourself restless and somewhat deranged. The 180 degree flip in movement, conditions, and sleep patterns does this to me every time. Anyways, I lost it during one of these episodes. I thought everyone and their mother was out to get me, including myself.”

The accompanying video is a glorious short film set to Combs’ music… a sci-fi inspired tale with echoes of Stranger Things and War Of The Worlds. Directed by Ry Cox, the beautifully shot piece has a grand cinematic feel to it and delivers a brilliant twist at the end.

You could say that it’s the full package; thought-provoking songwriting, easy to digest with gripping visuals.

Combs is due to start his US tour in April and UK tour in May. Here’s a chance to catch this burgeoning songwriter at the start of what will be a very promising career.

– Charlie Barker

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Review: Coloquix, Phantom Limbs Opening Night, 12/12/16

It was a dark and cold winter’s evening at the start of December, in one of Sheffield’s newest cafe/ art spaces.

The Holt, situated behind Arundel Gate is central enough to access easily but tucked away enough to have a quaint and quirky atmosphere and it was the latest venue to host Sheffield street artist, Coloquix’s new art exhibition.

Arriving early before opening, I am greeted at the venue entrance by a large, new signature black and white lady with wings and bright red, orange and yellow colours. A permanent feature now for all those passing to see.

As ever the man, Coloquix himself is nervously preparing and waiting for people to arrive and soon enough the place is full, pieces are being sold and there’s a hefty queue at the bar.

This year, the artwork has seen a progression in different themes and style, the famous black and white lady has become more animated in her depiction, with different actions, settings and features. There’s a darker theme working it’s way throughout the pieces, the halo, the skulls, the black raven and the ouija board making appearances.

It’s not just the style that has evolved, the medium has too featuring some smaller watercolour pieces as well as the spray can crafted pieces that the artist has become well known for.

It’s truly surpassed all expectations, showing the great skill and time taken to create all there is on offer.

Coloquix’s Phantom Limbs exhibition is on until Saturday 24th December at The Holt, Arundel Street, Sheffield.

– Charlie Barker

View full set of event images: click here.

EP Review: Red Trees – Spring EP4

Red Trees EP4Red Trees are Sheffield-based duo Chris Beckett and Lou Richards. These songs, which were written in the Spring of 2014, conclude their four-EP Seasons project, and what a lovely project it has been.

Both Chris and Lou sing and play guitar, and all of the songs are their own compositions. Electric guitars are delicately finger-picked, and voices are restrained, and in beautiful harmony, creating a dreamy, ethereal sound. There is simplicity and spirituality to this music, and intimacy and introspection in the lyrics.

Of the five songs on the EP, Dove is possibly the stand-out track: it is longer, and, featuring a spoken word passage, and leavened by acoustic piano, it feels like it takes the listener on a little journey.

Chris and Lou’s voices are often not high in the mix, so primarily they provide melody, yet if you listen closely there are some beautiful words and sentiments, such as “I watched as the Autumn set fire to the trees”, and “I wrote your name as if there were no other words”. There are many references to seasons in this concluding work of the project, and to the natural world (flowers, fauna, landscape, weather), and in this way, they are perhaps Romantics in the old sense of the word.

This EP is available either online, or as a limited edition 3″ mini-CD, which somehow seems to fit with the duo’s minimalist DIY ethos. You can listen to them at redtrees.bandcamp.com, or buy the EP from searecords.co.uk.

– Simon Benton

Live Review: Eliza & the Bear in Sheffield

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by Matt Churchard

The Leadmill is a Sheffield institution. It’s stage has been graced by just about every band I’ve ever cared about since the age of 15 and it’s a place that’s loved by almost all of Sheffield.

So to be a young band and having the chance to play here must be a kick, even if you’re playing the second stage. The sheer accumulated man-hours that have been invested by the youth of our proud city at its bars, on its dance floor and at its gigs. Must be more than the total productivity output of many a small African country? This place is special…

Tonight’s gig is kicked off by Lisbon. These lads from the North East are a band with youthful vigour and style that kept people interested for whole of their set. The mix of indie sensibilities, groove and a hint of electro is fun, uplifting and attention grabbing. The songs are well crafted and show a promise of something bigger to come, the stand out track being Native from the band’s EP Life Is Good. Give them a bit of time and Lisbon could be the band that put Whitley Bay on the map.

Eliza and the Bear are new to me. They’ve got a buzz about them and I can see why. They bravely plough straight into tonight’s set with Friends, the song that’s probably their most recognisable and then pretty much stamp their authority on the rest of the night.

Indie that you can dance to is a thing to behold and these Londoners are well versed in the tricks of that trade. Loud and clear drums, bright keys, cutting guitars and a bit of brass all added up to selection of songs that showed the band at its tight, rhythmic best. However, the acoustic section towards the end felt like an anti-climax. These songs were well performed but tonight wasn’t the night for them so when the band came back on to do a few more the whole room lifted again.

Eliza and the Bear will be successful, there’s no doubt in that. They have the songs, they have the skill, and they can steal your girlfriend before you’re back from the bar. Now is a good time to be a band. I’m certain that the scratchy, miserable indie of old will be dethroned by this new, fun, dancey indie that’s so easy to listen to that anyone can get it. Keep an eye on both of these bands, there’s good times a coming.

– Matt Churchard

Live Review: Katy Perry Prismatic Tour in Sheffield, 23/05/14

Venue: Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield
Date: 23/05/14

Following the release of her fourth studio album, America’s California Girl-Next Door sets out on the UK leg of her Prismatic World Tour, stopping by South Yorkshire’s Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield.

Surrounded by mini-Katy Perry’s, with blue Smurf hair, green highlights and her characteristic adopted ‘cat ears’, the crowd of all ages had flocked to see the pop superstar. This was certainly a safe family audience in attendance.

The concert support came from Swedish house/ dance duo Icona Pop, who bounced around the stage with their brand of “we’re a girl band with attitude”. Whilst I had assumed this act was probably one for the kids, the slightly adult themes and occasional language wasn’t entirely appropriate and expected. Nevertheless they churned out their hits I Love It along with new single Girlfriend and made way for the star of the night.

The cleverly crafted, triangular Prism stage was starting to take shape as the lights went out and the strobes pulsated around the arena. With acrobatic and gymnastic displays the music started and Katy Perry arrived in fine voice, emerging from a large pyramid centre stage.

Opening with Roar, the singer energetically joined her troupe of dancers dressed in neon, glowing, tribal costumes. This wasn’t going to be a just a music concert, it was clear that every inch of this spectacle had been precisely choreographed with care.

As the different parts of the stage contorted and twisted, it lifted Perry onto a higher platform as she belted out the ballads Part Of Me and Wide Awake. Though just as soon as the prism on stage had taken shape it was time to change set into the Egyptian-themed part of the show.

Featuring the worldwide hits E.T. and I Kissed A Girl, the stage filled up with caricatured female Mummies, wrapped in bandages with more than ample assets, dancing around the singer. At this point the show took on a spooky cinematic experience as spooky video animations and stories were played out on the huge video screens behind.

It wasn’t long before the show morphed into a foray of Perry’s characteristic feline friends singing a big band, swing version of Hot N Cold.

After all the bright lights and dance routines, Katy Perry, her backing singers and a select few musicians from her band joined her right at the front of the stage for a chilled out acoustic set, which was a particular highlight of the evening.

She joked with the audience “Boyfriends come and go, but you’re always there”, before posing for a selfie with one lucky member of the crowd and exclaiming she nearly lost her wig in the process!

Joking aside, she took this opportunity to serenade the arena with simple arrangements of By The Grace of God, The One That Got Away and most notably Unconditionally and actually picked up a multi-coloured, glittery guitar herself.

Paying homage to her host city tonight, the singer bravely sampled a pint of local Bradfield Brewery bitter along with taking the time out to thank everyone for coming to the gig (particularly the boyfriends who’d been dragged there to please their partners).

More hits were to follow with her latest single Birthday, the anthem Teenage Dream and the fun California Gurls, Perry had not only exceeded but totally surpassed all expectation with an evening of immense variety, great pop songs and an amazing array of dance and stage craft. It was certainly a sight to behold with a great soundtrack, which left her excited and loyal fans shouting for more as she closed the show with the unmistakable Firework.

– Charlie Barker

View full set of live gig images: click here.

Album Review: Cathryn Craig & Brian Willoughby – Real World

Real WorldReleased: 2013
Label: Cabritunes

This is a classy folk album from an Anglo-American pairing. Cathryn Craig is a singer from Virginia, USA and Brian Willoughby is a British guitarist; together they form a strong writing and performing partnership.

Cathryn has a clear, tuneful voice, she conveys these songs emotively, many of which are seemingly written from life’s experiences. Impressively, she has worked with many people, from Bill Medley to Nanci Griffith.

Brian provides a perfect backing, always playing something intricate, interesting and complementing, but never distracting from the songs. Previously in the Strawbs, Brian has also played with Mary Hopkin, Roger Whitaker and Monty Python, amongst many. He is something of a virtuoso of the fingerpicked steel-strung acoustic guitar, mostly playing simply and delicately, but also playing some exquisite solos.

The album was recorded live in the studio, with no overdubs and that has captured some of the immediacy you get with a live performance. The simple, straightforwardness of the recording makes it impossible to date: sonically, it could date from the 1960s or last week and this is a strength.

Five of the twelve songs here are new and the other seven are re-recordings of songs as they play them in their live set.

It’s difficult to pick stand-out tracks as all of the songs are of a consistent standard. Lyrically, many of the songs tell personal stories, such as the childhood reminiscences of Eastview Lane.

Two Hearts, One Love about relationships and I Will, on taking a chance to leave somewhere to try to realise a dream.

By way of contrast, Accanoe is about the Native Americans’ treatment by white settlers, and Cumberland tells the story of the 2010 Tennessee floods.

Musically, there is a very high standard throughout but to pick out a couple of songs, Malahide Moon and Two Hearts, One Love, both feature some beautiful guitar-playing.

This is an emotional and beautiful album of crafted folk songs.

– Simon Benton