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Little Gems That Hedgehogs Talk About In British Pubs
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Little Music Gems
It is my pleasure to write about some of the unsigned and independent acts from my own area...the South East region of Kent and Sussex and sometimes beyond. There are many acts that might not be getting the exposure they deserve and it is my intention to document these acts with a brief little biography and a review of the album which has led me to the craftsperson, composer or band in the first place. It is essentially an album review site with a biography...ie...not just a 'write-about-this-band' page. Whilst I am trying to avoid writing about these albums in a fawning, nepotistic act of blandishment...the vast majority of them have found their way into my consciousness via the circles of life that I move in...and into which I have subscribed socially of my own volition...so they do tend to lean towards the kind of artistry that I will mainly enjoy. On the basis of that supposition it will no doubt be a somewhat sweet-tempered and friendly review service.
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I Don't Wish To Alarm You But - Roger Stevens
Influenced by the likes of John Fahey and Bert Jansch...Roger began to write and play in the '60s in Syndicate (formerly The Pathfinders) in the ever-encompassing worlds of folk and r&b.
For much of the '70's Roger played across the United Kingdom with folk trios and similar acts including his comedy theatrical band Rubber Rhino
The Killer Rabbits were co-formed in the '80's with the continuing theme of theatricals and comedy. The band played at regular venues in London and the South East (I myself caught them a few times...most memorably at the Beacon Court...Gillingham and at The Royal Albion...Maidstone) His persona at the time was Roger Radio with the lead singer Roger Rabbit...played by Roger Fahy (who also played in Syndicate) The band were embroiled in controversy at various times over the claim that the Walt Disney Corporation pilfered the singer's name for the film I dare not mention.
Roger...with Roger...(confused yet?) then formed The Wrong Brothers....another excellent funny band playing around the region.
In the 90's Roger upped sticks and pitched his bivoauc in the folk-fields of Nottingham...where he soon morphed into the new role of Jon Lord in the Deep Purple tribute band...Perfect Strangers
He then played keyboards in a band called Damn Right I Got the Blues with author Ken Follett and singer-actress Floella Benjamin.
Roger has since settled in Hove and has gone back to his folk roots playing at clubs across the circuit and recording new material...which brings me to this new album:
I Don't Wish To Alarm You But...by Roger Stevens
Having not heard any of Roger's music for some decades...and not knowing if I should expect swirling keyboards, stripped-down guitar or topsy-turvy flashes of deliberately chaotic production...I settled down with a beer.
Delightful...inspiring...hugely-welcome...but that's enough about the Kronenbourg...let's move onto the music.
I pressed 'play'
It soon became evident...even to my untrained ears...that Roger has indeed returned to his roots...but this is in no way an absolute exclusionary folk album. I was surpised and delighted to find elements of folk...blues...music-hall...and even country and western in this veritable interfusion of styles
Track By Track
- I Don't Wish To Alarm You But - Roger kicks off proceedings with a delicately-plucked song which helpfully highlights the perils of our modern society including car-theft, nuclear war, asteroid devastation and the world's end. 'Close the door, close the curtains, close your eyes, close your mind' he intelligently points out...with the wry warbling of a kindly sparrow looking through smog-cover spectacles...because...'There's no point, you're gonna fail, read it in the Daily Mail, so you may as well just curl up and die' A definite folk song for starters...with some pleasant backing vocals from Karen Moses
- Fukushima Sun - The sparrow gets even darker with a cautionary and sadly poignant account of the devastated Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. Once again the song is laced with some lovely vocals from Karen...making a distinction from Roger's deep delivery to rival the seeping of the Strontium 90 radiation seeping into the waters of Fukushima itself. Fukushima Sun climaxes with some eerie background sounds which put you well into the Chernobyl-esque picture. Very moving.
- Spoiler Alert - A glimpse into the world of the ever-growing phenomenon of 'spoiler alerts' seen everywhere on the internet on Coronation Street sites and Eastenders forums alike. Roger concentrates on telling us why his 'girlfriend' in the song left him...and whom she left him for...and he lets us know why Prince Charles will never become king and how Eastenders will reach it's final dramatic conclusion (probably with the dreadful Eastenders drum-roll...of course)
- I Don't Live Here - Another folky little number with tenderly picked guitar backing Roger's concise up-front vocal in a reminiscent look at life in a mundane world. Delivered well...delivered cleanly...delivered like a true story-teller
- Waiting For The End - Roger in poetic mood with the ever-present 'world's end' theme. God...I hope he's not right...not just yet...please...but something tells me that the sparrow has seen something we haven't. Steadfast guitar...crisp vocal...and another instrument which I can't place...but it's more than likely some kind of organ...which puts me in mind of the late great Ivor Cutler. Life in a Sussex Sitting Room.
- Impossibly Large Numbers - Banjo huskily plays behind a song which could be the signature song for 1024 mathematicians. (you see what I did there?) More prominent backing vocals (an oxymoronic sentence...if I ever heard one) Roger does keep you on your toes for this one though...just when you thought it was safe to go back into a logistical mood he throws in philosophical conundrums and coffee-related incidents.
This is Roger
- A Little Bit Out Of Tune - Not my take on the musicianship on the song but rather the actual title of the song. This is where...for me...Roger goes proper country and western...with those steel guitar thingys...the c&w backing vocals putting me in mind of Hayes Carll and Bonnie Whitmore...singing Another Like You. (check it on youtube folks)...and just the general theme of the song. A kind of slow and wistful country and western Sloop John B-ish tune
- The Sad Songs - Karen Moses takes the reins for this song...in a questioning (not questionable) song concerning the realities and truths about nostalgia and sadness. A beautifully performed song and well worthy of inclusion on this fine potpourri of an album.
- Walking Down The Road With Joe - Blues...unquestionably. My first...possibly random...thought was 'This would have slotted quite nicely into an early Alvin Stardust album' I hope that Roger doesn't take offence at that...it's some of the subtle chord-drops at certain lines and the Be-Bop-Lula style...of which Alvin (as Shane Fenton in earlier times) was such a masterful exponent.
- Our Own Little World - Another pleasant little ditty with country and western overtones. I have been impressed throughout the whole album with the levels of mixing...and so it continues.
- Bonus Track - It's a bonus track...but not just a bonus track...more a roll-call of other examples of the 'bonus track' philosophy....late wins on Match of the Day...an extra half an hour in bed in the morning...an after-dinner drink with the manager. That kind of thing....and a very welcome piece of information
I am delighted to have listened to...and reviewed this album. It all comes across as a nice friendly conversation really...like I had Roger here in my front room playing the guitar and singing...with Karen waltzing in from the dining-room every now and again with her well-defined melodic co-ordinations. I am happy that Roger has picked his guitar up again and is playing on the circuit and recording. I think I'd like to see him make some crazy psychedelic spectacular extravaganza of an album before he expires and becomes a recognition in someone else's nostalgic representation of a particular musical landscape....but you can't have it all.
OR CAN YOU ?
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