Music related postings

The Lighting was Hell, the band were Merry

Listen while you read

It’s no secret that one of my favourite folk rock bands in the Wigan based Merry Hell.

They are lively, uplifting, and highly entertaining. They write songs in the modern folk ethos, with keen, wry, often humorous, observations of life and love. And when touched by discrimination, injustice and political malfeasance, they protesteth well through the medium of song.

We’ve had them perform at our own folk and acoustic club on a number of occasions, and indeed they will be back again in November [Link].

They are a great band to photograph too. The three Kettle bothers; gravelly voiced Andrew in his dapper suits, the plectrum chewing John with his animated guitar style, and the hirsute and behatted Bob with a face full of character that randomly breaks into the widest of smiles. And of course there’s the lovely Virginia, who is great to photograph because of her nimble and gesticulous performances, and just because she’s the lovely Virginia.

As this particular gig was at a club in a neighbouring town, I’d awarded myself a night off and left my camera at home, only to find on arrival, an SLR being pressed into my hand. I agreed to the request, quietly self-imposing a “three songs and out” rule so I could relax and enjoy the show.

You will have guessed by now that this is not so much a music review, being filed primarily under “Photography Talk”. Please go here for past Merry Hell reviews, and Here for Ron Lester’s review of the Rhyl gig.

The camera was a Fuji S5. My first digital SLR had been the Fuji S1 which I still have but rarely use. It was low on megapixels and lacked the ability to shoot raw, but I always loved the smooth skin tones produced by the unique pixel structure of  its ‘Super CCD’.

Being a Nikon user, the S5 felt comfortable, based as it was on the 2006 iteration of the Nikon D200. Because it was dark and there was a gig to enjoy, I didn’t have the time nor inclination to fully familiarise myself, so I went with the camera’s settings as they were. Luckily, I spotted the fact the auto-focus was set to dynamically focus using the centre spot, so not wanting to trawl through an unfamiliar menu, I utilised the focus lock button the ensure it didn’t keep drifting to focus on the background.

For this type of shoot, in the inevitable low level lighting, I tend to shoot on Shutter Prioriy at a 30th with auto ISO.

As well as the four main band members, there were the back line bass and fiddle players, Nick Davies  and Neil McCartney to consider. Getting all six in one shot was always going to be a challenge, so I altered my vantage point for each of the three songs. Whilst I was precariously perched  atop a rickety bar stool, Virginia announced she wanted everyone to sway along to “Bury Me Naked”. As infectious as the music was, I declined, not wanting to be buried just yet, naked or otherwise.

“I’ll send you the files”, he said, as I handed back the camera . What he meant was “will you process them for me too”. Anyway I didn’t really mind. Ron’s a mate, and he never objects when the tables are turned and I thrust a camera into his hands at our own club.

The following day, three dozen Jpegs appeared in my Dropbox, under-exposed (I knew they would be) and with the colour balance from hell (I knew this too).  What I hadn’t known was that the camera was set to shoot only Jpegs. Ah well. The Fuji’s firmware had done it’s best to cope with the mixture of low power tungsten, halogen and led spot/floods that illuminate the business end of Rhyl Folk & Acoustic’s clubroom, and in doing so had stripped out a hell of a lot of the digital ‘meat’ I am used to dealing with in my own NEF RAW files.

The sliders in Lightroom’s Develop Module looked like  something created by Salvador Dali, but we got there in the end and the images turned out quite reasonable considering the conditions.

I was satisfied with the images and had got to enjoy my first Merry Hell fix of the year.

By |February 14th, 2017|0 Comments

Read More

Musicians lost to 2016

Dear Grim Reaper.

You have been a greedy bastard. Now feck off, take a year’s sabbatical, and leave the world of music alone!

Yours sincerely
2016

The Grim Roll Call

  1. David Bowie
  2. Dale Griffin (Mott The Hoople)
  3. Glenn Frey (Eagles)
  4. Colin Vearncombe, (Black)
  5. Paul Kantner (Jefferson Airplane)
  6. Signe Anderson (Jefferson Airplane)
  7. Maurice White (Earth Wind and Fire)
  8. Viola Beach (all four members)
  9. George Martin
  10. Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake & Palmer)
  11. Andy Newman (Thunderclap Newman)
  12. Merle Haggard
  13. Jimmie Van Zant (American singer, songwriter)
  14. Prince
  15. Lonnie Mack (American rock, blues and country singer)
  16. Billy Paul (Me and Mrs Jones)
  17. Guy Clark (country and folk singer, songwriter)
  18. Dave Swarbrick
  19. Bernie Worrell (Parliament-Funkadelic / Talking Heads)
  20. Henry McCullough (Irish rock guitarist)
  21. Ralph Stanley (American bluegrass artist)
  22. Scotty Moore,(long time-guitarist with Elvis)
  23. Alan Vega (electronic protopunk duo Suicide)
  24. James Woolley (Nine Inch Nails)
  25. Matt Roberts (3 Doors Down)
  26. Rod Temperton (Heatwave)
  27. Pete Burns
  28. Bobby Vee
  29. Leonard Cohen
  30. Craig Gill, (Inspiral Carpets)
  31. Colonel Abrams (American singer/songwriter)
  32. Leon Russell
  33. Ray Columbus (and the Invaders)
  34. Bap Kennedy, (Belfast singer-songwriter)
  35. Sharon Jones (Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings)
  36. Wayne Duncan (Daddy Cool)
  37. Greg Lake (Emerson, Lake and Palmer)
  38. Rick Parfit (Status Quo)
  39. Joe Ligon (Mighty Clouds of Joy)
  40. George Michael

By |December 26th, 2016|0 Comments

Read More

Merry Hell at the Hermon

hermon

Hermon Chapel (picture – Barry Edwards)

Destined to be bull-dozed, the Hermon Chapel was purchased by social worker and Oswestry Town Councillor Duncan Kerr, whose vision and sheer hard work has transformed the building into a premises for public meetings, music performance and movie screenings.

Retaining the layout and furnishings of a traditional Welsh chapel, Duncan has added a tiny licensed bar, a sound system and stage lighting to create a performance space accommodating an audience of a little over 100.

There are some who might possibly play merry hell over the thought of  the former holy building being used for rock music, and that, figuatively speaking, is what happened last weekend. It was, of course, all good natured as those nicest of folk rockers, Merry Hell, descended from Wigan to perform their stuff.

20161120-5386

Bob Kettle

The band’s six-piece acoustic(ish) line-up played two 45 minute sets that included many of their old favourites like Bury Me Naked and Drunken Serenade, and some from their newly released album Bloodlines, (a hairy review of which will follow soon).

The cosy atmosphere was fabulous and the band’s energetic enthusiasm for everything they do rubbed off onto the appreciative audience, many of whom where, quite literally, dancing in the aisles. Bob kettle’s new ‘alternative anthem’ Come on England, was one of the highlights for me. Another was his emotional and poignant song about refugees, Coming Home, sung by the entire band, a cappella.

The band were, as always, stunningly brilliant. If you’ve never seen them, please do! And if you can get to see them in a lovely little venue such as this, all the better.

 

By |November 29th, 2016|0 Comments

Read More

Folk on the Dock

20160827-4076The Hell was Merry, the Eleanor was Nelly, plus a bespectacled dog who’s been on the telly.

 

Liverpool held it’s first ever “Folk on the Dock” festival over the Bank Holiday weekend. BBC Radio DJ Janice Long hosted the event, and with over 30 acts performing on two main outdoor stages, two concert venues and several smaller stages (some on the deck of boats moored in the Albert Dock), there was something for everyone.

Best of all, apart from the evening indoor concerts, the whole thing was free!

We were only able to go on the Saturday this time, so we missed out on seeing some of our favourite acts, but next year I have a feeling the entire weekend will be on our itinerary.

Here are some of the highlights featuring Folk Rock Band Merry Hell, Liverpool singer Eleanor Nelly, a couple of Shanty Singers and a bespectacled dog 🙂 .

By |August 30th, 2016|0 Comments

Read More

Saturday’s Acoustica Sessions at Llangollen Fringe Festival

Mike Clarke

Organiser and MC Mike Clarke

For the past few years the Fringe Festival has grown into a major event for Llangollen.

Acoustica has become a part of that festival, taking place on the Saturday afternoon between 1.00pm and 8.00pm.

This is a purely Acoustic event introducing new acts (to the area/event).  No Amplifiers or effects pedals, nice and simple, and back to basics, with just instrument and vocal mics to reinforce the sound.

This year’s  Acoustica event took place on Saturday the 16th of July at The Hand Hotel, on Bridge Street.

20160716-2768

The Glaaswalkers

The event was opened by The Glaaswalkers featuring the event’s organisers, Brian Connaughton and Mike ”Squeezebox” Clark.

20160716-2784

Brian Connaughton

The Glaaswalkers describe themselves as “Three Blokes , one woman, one fiddle, one bass, a guitar, three squeezeboxes, seven gob irons, and various whistles playing mostly their own stuff A touch of folk, blues and countryish music. The other main band members being Matt Moose,  and Sam Rex Edwards.

After their opening spot, Brian jumped onto the sound desk and generally made sure everyone was mic’d up correctly and Mike talked himself hoarse introducing all the afternoons’ acts whilst perfecting the art of speaking through the widest and most genuine smile you have ever seen.

 

Penni Neale

Penni Neale

Next up was Denbigh’s Penni Neal. Penni is a retired lecturer, born in Pwllheli, who developed her love of singing at an early age.

Penni is an active member of the local music scene involved with the Denbigh Folk club and more recently the Ruthin All Styles Music Club.

She sang a wide range of songs in in both Welsh and English leaning heavily on her Folk, Country and Blues roots. Her version of Highway to heaven had the room spellbound.

Chris Birchall

Chris Birchall

Next up was Chris Birchall aka The Hairy Photographer, Chris first got into music in his teens as bassist and vocalist with sixties Merseybeat band, The Executioners.

During his career as a photojournalist, Chris snapped dozens of high profile musicians, including the likes of Clapton, Blondie, The Who, The Jam, The Clash, Sting – the list goes on. And all the time hankering to get back to performing but never having the time.

Now retired he brought the songs of Bob Dylan, Willy Nelson, The Beatles, Christy Moore and Damian Rice to Llangollen, alternating between his his vintage EKO Ranger and Washburn 12 String.

John Williams

Hailing from the Wirral, John Williams is a singer/songwriter with folk roots as his main genre. His set included some of his own compositions and songs by the likes of Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler.

He performed Romeo and Juliet as you’ve never heard it before, played on  an eight string baritone mandolin. Being a multi instrumentalist, for this set he also used a four string tenor guitar.

Isabella Crowther was next up. An Indie/Acoustic artist with a lovely voice. Although from North Wales she is currently based in London, gigging the local music scene. Her set included songs from her debut E.P. released this summer.

Isabella Crowther

Isabella Crowther

In a nice touch, the organisers invited local pensioner Peter Meilleur on stage to recite a William Blake poem.

A last-minute addition to the line-up was local musician Chris Burton who gave us a taste of the songs he can be found busking on the town hall steps on the weekends, raising money for the air ambulance.

Next up was Theo Laughlin is a talented and colourful musician performing as something of a one-man band with guitar, foot drum and stomp tambourine, He sang a mixture of his own humorous and serious works with a few well known sing-alongs too!!

Theo Laughlin

Theo Laughlin

Listing his main musical influences as the delta blues, jug bands, country blues,  Steely Dan, Ry Cooder, Clapton, and Dylan, Andy Bob Beaumont did a fine set including his song Red to Blond. before dashing off back to Bangor for another gig. Andy Bob also has a live session booked for next Monday night on Tudno FM at 10.00pm.

The headline act this year was the locally-based Alt-folk, Sunshine Pop band, Campfire Social. They took to the stage for the last hour with a highly entertaining set. Undeterred by a gremlin in the PA system, they jumped off the stage to get up close and personal for the last half of their set.

All in all it was a wonderful  afternoon’s entertainment thanks mainly to the hard work of the two enthusiastic organisers Brian Connaughton and Mike Clark.

(Click the pictures to enlarge)

Headliners Campfire Social

Headliners Campfire Social

 

By |July 17th, 2016|0 Comments

Read More