Recently recovered from Covid19, Kate Stables of This Is The Kit gives her fans a performance of songs from her band’s new record, Off Off On. Also, Kate offers an engaging interview (below) with DJ Morgan of Seattle’s KEXP radio.
“The merry time of Christmas is drawing on a-pace…”, and so I’m delighted to share with you this Birmingham-related recording of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” [Roud 394], taken from my forthcoming album, “Up The Cut”. You can listen to (and download) the track via my Bandcamp page now, and via various streaming platforms from December 1st.
Pre-save “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” on Spotify by clicking here. You will be notified via the Spotify app when it becomes available.
I found this broadside version of the well-known carol on the Broadside Ballads website. Printed by D. Wrighton at 86 Snow Hill, Birmingham, sometime between 1812-30, it contains lyrics I don’t recognise from my school days. Throwing down Satan wasn’t a major part of Yuletide festivities in 1980s Solihull, as far as I recall.
Sure, it’s a bit cheesy to do a Christmas song, but I feel it’s something of a Midlands tradition. If Slade can do it, then I’ll have a bash, too. This one’s for Noddy. Oi, oi!
Huge thanks to Andi Lee of Kosi Studios, who has helped me to mix and master this track, and the remainder of the tracks on “Up The Cut”. It’s hard to listen to your own music even once, let alone a hundred times over, so I’m very grateful to Andi for his help (and to Tom Moore for his help in demoing the track to begin with). Thanks also to Jon Nice for the lovely linocut cover.
Here’s to having as peaceful and restful a Christmas as 2020 will allow. Good tidings of the season to each and every one of you.
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Lyrics
God rest ye merry gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember Christ our saviour
Was born on Christmas Day
To save our souls from Satan’s thrall
Which long have gone astray
This brings tidings of comfort and joy
Gwenifer Raymond – Strange Lights over Garth Mountain
Welsh-born fingerstyle guitar devotee Gwenifer Raymond‘s second album contains five tracks less than You Never Were Much of a Dancer, over pretty much the same running time. This is significant because it gives each longer piece (most are around six or seven minutes) space to breathe and Gwen time to flex and explore. Although You Never Were Much of a Dancer was an accomplished debut, it still felt like Gwen was demonstrating her skills and doffing her cap to the players who helped influence and shape her sound. Strange Lights feels like a huge leap forward; every note sounds original and creative. That space in the songs is also critical to how the album plays. There is still plenty of Gwen’s punky frenetic picking across the set, but it is juxtaposed with moments of calm (touched with menace of course; it’s still a Gwenifer Raymond album). Take opener Incantation as an example; after the briefest of percussion intros, Gwen begins playing a low tattoo, which leads into a slow-picked line that hits top strings before heading into a slightly more anxious part. The bass notes run through the whole song, giving it structure, but the tune is complex and intriguing, not quite allowing us to relax. This incantation could still take you somewhere dark.
Things heat up for Coal Train down the Line, this album’s train song. After another fairly calm intro, Gwen’s fingers start moving and after half a minute she hits a groove that gathers pace until the engine is hurtling. A train song is a staple feature of solo guitar music, but this piece is far from posturing to tradition; indeed, it is as brimming with ideas and complexity as all of the other tunes here. There are moments of intense playing in several places, but each is balanced with a strong melody line and interesting direction. Living up to a gory title, Gwaed am Gwaed (Blood for Blood), is the most hostile piece, with flat notes hidden throughout that give it a rough cut texture and a sinister edge. Even the melody line that crops up at points is unnerving. More forgiving is Marseilles Bunkhouse, 3am, a fascinating song that shifts pace at several points, letting a sense of drama and paranoia build until a quickly picked line with buzzing bass string bursts out at the halfway point.
Gwen plays with pacing throughout Strange Lights to great effect. Stand out piece Ruben’s Song begins with a lullaby of a line before gathering momentum a la Coal Train down the Line and then deciding to switch into a tightly played upbeat melody song. A deceptive little creation, it’s a lot of fun and shows off Gwen’s deft playing and her ability to write a cracking hook. Eulogy for Dead French Composer is another multi-faceted tune, with as many moods as a piece of classical music. The final title song maintains the drama of the previous Eulogy, but while the playing is softer and quite sweet in places, the oddness of the shifts and fidgety nature of the piece lends it the strange character of its title. Completely fascinating, daring and complex, it’s a splendid piece that neatly sums up the progressive nature of this album and Gwen’s playing as a whole.