Moon & Back Session :: Abbie Broom

'Abbie Broom In Session' - © 2012 Anthony Barlow

“…It’s alright, because this motorbike is really warm” – Abbie Broom

This session was a bit of a mad one to record. We found out Abbie was going to be in Manchester shortly before she arrived, and had more sessions to shoot that day. Needless to say, we were in a bit of a rush. So after trying to find a well lit corner of Manchester to film, we threw Miss Broom out into the cold and had her perform a couple of songs before running off into the night to our next engagement.

Despite our hastiness (it was cold out there too!) and the lack of light, the session came out really well. Background noise and Manchester’s least courteous people aside, of course. If you want to hear more from Abbie, head over to Rough Trade.

Anyway, enjoy!

‘Heroes’

‘Dorothy’s Heels’

Album Review :: Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball

“…this record makes me believe we might actually change something.”

As much as Wrecking Ball lived up to the hype for me, I’m not blasphemous enough to say it belongs in the same league as the holy trinity (The Wild, The Innocent, and The E Street Shuffle, Born to Run, and Darkness on the Edge of Town), or really any of the early stuff. However, while Wrecking Ball comes up short in a few ways, it does what a Bruce record is supposed to do: it makes you want to be alive.

I don’t listen to Springsteen for the general broad criteria of a rock ‘n roll record, I listen to Springsteen because sometimes life is hard and you just want to lie down and die. Springsteen makes all that seem silly. His music is the reminder that there is hope, and on this record it’s not just an assumed factor. Here it’s the very premise. Bruce is more direct and honest about what he’s trying to do on this record than on any other. Despite its flaws, this is ultimately a record that will make lives better.

The record begins with a challenge: ‘We Take Care of Our Own’ is similar to ‘Born in the USA’, in that if one listens to the chorus it seems like a resounding nationalistic claim of America’s superiority. Instead, it’s an indictment of America’s (and to some extent the entire developed world’s) failure to deliver on the promise of civilization. No one expects the streets to be paved with gold, but they don’t expect to get cast out to die a nameless death in a back alley somewhere either. However, it holds true to its purpose of making us want to live; it is a challenge rather than a condemnation. It challenges us not because we let the dream die, but because we pretended it died when it could very well be still alive if we kept it that way.

Before my devotion continues, I suppose I ought to be fair and admit that there are three songs on the record I wish were not. The second track, ‘Easy Money’, has a good enough premise that echoes the title track from Nebraska. It embodies the criminal to truly explore the negative impact of the state of things. Still, it’s like ‘You’ve Got It’; in that the premise is nice enough, but the execution is sort of flat. ‘Easy Money’ actually bears the line “you put out the dog, I’ll put out the cat,” and while that might be interpreted as the contrast of a common daily activity against the crime that the husband and wife are preparing to commit, it’s just awkward. ‘You’ve Got It’ is just an unnecessarily repetitive love song. While those two are guilty for doing too little, ‘Rocky Ground’ is guilty of doing too much. It’s a lot like ‘Outlaw Pete’: That song is generally pretty fantastic, except for the part at the beginning wherein Bruce recounts the titular character committing a robbery… As an infant. This is the sort of thing that might be better left unsaid, and it’s present on ‘Rocky Ground’ as well.

‘Land of Hope and Dreams’ (the best song on the record) and ‘Rocky Ground’ are essentially the same song, except with an awkwardly flat rap breakdown and no Clarence solo. It’s like telling the same joke twice and messing up the punch line. The contrast is even more notable with the two tracks coming one after another. In fact, that’s similar to ‘Shackled and Drawn’ and ‘Easy Money’. They’re both painfully American borderline country songs about the victimization of the working man, but ‘Shackled and Drawn’ is so much better. And as far as love songs go, ‘This Depression’ beats out ‘You’ve Got It’ without diverting from the core themes of the record.

The album ends on ‘We Are Alive’, which restates the message of persistence in the face of adversity laid out in the title track. Both of these songs are absolutely perfect Bruce songs in my opinion. The whole world economy went to crap thanks to a very few people profiting from deals bound to go bad, and these songs seem to suggest that not only did we tough it out, we won’t back down. While I usually spend my days too cynical to believe it, this record makes me believe we might actually change something.

Finally, ‘Swallowed Up (In The Belly of the Whale)’ is one of several Christian-leaning songs on the record, but it’s worth a listen regardless of the belief system of the listener. Ultimately, it doesn’t preach so much as it uses the parable of Jonah and the Whale. Unfortunately, the placement of this as a bonus track has it following the call to action of ‘Land of Hope and Dreams’ and the statement of integrity in ‘We Are Alive’, and so it really alters the tone of the record.

Having the challenge of ‘Swallowed Up’ followed by the invitations of ‘Land of Hope and Dreams’ and the final confidence of ‘We Are Alive’ really holds true to the album’s political message, while reinforcing the notion that it is truly great to be alive. If you chose to buy the bonus track at that point (and you should) you would be treated by the Boss essentially playing Irish Folk-Punk. While ‘American Land’ is literally a critique of America’s immigration policy, in spirit it’s a loud, fast, energetic song basically asking us not to be jerks to people. Who can’t get behind that?

– Zack Fowler

Review :: Dave Arcari – Nobody’s Fool

On the shoulders of giants.


Nobody's Fool © DixieFrog

Trail blazing a path that has now taken him all across the globe, Dave Arcari has returned with a fourth album, Nobody’s Fool. A regular here on M&B, Dave’s unique brand of delta blues infusion and throaty folk tradition have proven to be great successes for the man in the hat so far.


It seems like an almost incalculably long time since Arcari’s last offering, Devil’s Left Hand stormed onto the country scene in late 2010. By comparison, Got Me Electric is now over two years old and still offers a fresh, invigorating sound to what is one of the oldest genres of music. It is with this same pioneering approach that Arcari delivers Nobody’s Fool.

Recorded between Finland and Arcari’s native Scotland, Nobody’s Fool represents the growing international recognition of the singer himself. This latest offering is his most ambitious to date. That ambition drips from every one of the thirteen tracks with a glossy, conscious production as Arcari is joined by some substantial names from the across the industry. Most notable of these is on “One Blind Side” where drummer Paul Savage of The Delgados fame. Part of one of the most successful, well loved Scottish indie bands of all time, the testimony, is all Arcari’s. This is a collaboration, not an endorsement and, more importantly, something that works.

Featuring previously released tracks re-recorded at Sonic-Pump studios in Finland; the album offers more of what has come to be expected from Aracri. Following a “if it aint broke…” policy, Nobody’s Fool is as throat raspingly raw as it’s predecessors. With a voice that feels like a saw’s blade, the man in the hat takes listeners on long, emotional, heart felt rides with every song. As is customary in Delta Blues, the need to lament, bemoan and generally feel sorry for one’s self is something expertly delivered and weighted in Arcari’s signature brogue. Indeed, had it not already been started in the American bayou, Scotland would no doubt be the blues capital of the universe.

With the added weight of three successful albums behind him, Nobody’s Fool marks a watershed in Arcari’s career. No longer considered a fringe artist in a niche market, this outing will most likely become Dave’s most widely acclaimed piece. Both through general exposure and now substantial touring back catalogue and set to draw from, Arcari is now on the threshold of wider acclaim and recognition across all musical spectrum. The importance of Nobody’s Fool is therefore much greater than simply another forum for new material and re-recorded classics. It is the wide spread calling card that could become synonymous with an artist and his career.

The breakthrough album is what every artist aspires to achieve, that’s just musical fact. Some spend whole careers before achieving the feet, David Bowie being one who slaved through mediocrity before going stratospheric. Others hit the jackpot on their (relatively) first attempt, Michael Jackson’s solo career, The Clash and of course, Guns n Roses. But when the dust settles, the last cocktail drunk and the spoon cooled down, all that matters is the quality of the work left behind.

With that in mind, Nobody’s Fool is an album that will be regarded in the future as a defining moment for Dave Arcari. The potential has been evident for years and success has duly flowed. Thousands of gigs and albums sold are testimony to Arcari’s growing endurance and loyal fan base. The next step therefore awaits, the signature breakthrough for an artist most deserving of the accolades that brings. Time, as it always does, will tell.


For details, and availibility, visit the official website: http://www.davearcari.com

EP Review :: Fitz. – Bare Bones

“…there is a definite “home-made” feel, a raw quality, which gives the songs a more touching edge.”

Fitz. is the pseudonym used by West-Midlands based musician Sam Fitzpatrick and his accompanying band, who, together, take modern-folk songs filled with pounding percussion and lace them with powerful vocals to deliver an impressively diverse and exciting debut E.P.

Upon graduating from University with a degree in Music Technology, Fitz. resigned himself to a 16th century stone barn in the Black Mountains of South Wales to wholeheartedly concentrate on his music, passionately working on tracks for his debut album ‘Patchwork’. Following the two-month recording of ‘Patchwork’ with the help of talented friends and musicians, Fitz. started working to assemble a live band to accompany him on stage.

As an ensemble, the members of Fitz. worked tirelessly to create a well-rounded debut EP, full of ‘a-la-mode’ folk instrumentals, layered vocals and intricate acoustic guitars. ‘Bare Bones’ is a 4 track masterpiece, filled with heartfelt and passionate songs; a tasty canapé, if you like, allowing a dalliance, a dabble in the delights that Fitz. has to offer and patently leaving you salivating for the full-length album, expected in May 2012.

After listening to the tracks (details of where to find them below), I am compelled to avoid any obvious comparisons (the likes of Mumford and Sons, Ben Howard, Frank Turner would be stereotypically linked to Fitz’s style) I would, however,prefer to place them on a pedestal of their own. Whilst the tracks have been mastered and well-recorded, there is a definite “home-made” feel, a raw quality, which gives the songs a more touching edge. There are no electronic effects, tweaking or over-production; every song is simple yet incredibly effective. Each track has a strong back-bone, a robust guitar riff or set of chords that provides a stable base for the linked instrumentals. The lyrics melt over the guitars, telling tangible and relatable stories whilst the interesting array of instruments and quirky interpretations of “modern-folk” allow the tracks to be unique and stand-out in an ever-growing market.

Whilst the E.P. flows well, each track fusing effortlessly into the next, the tracks all offer their own take on Fitz’s style. There are intense crescendos and quiet interludes. Two favourite tracks on the E.P. include ‘Firelight’ and ‘Maps’ which both contain the aforementioned ingredients that make this E.P. such a success.

As well as an impressive debut E.P., Fitz. has built an equally inspiring repertoire of live gigs, including performances at a ‘Unicef’ concert and entertaining sell out crowds of over a thousand. The band’s versatility and diverse range of talents allows them to offer exciting and powerful performances, whilst also being gifted with the ability to strip their eclectic supply of tracks down to their bare bones to allow for a more intimate and mellow set. This year, Fitz. is due to visit every corner of the UK promoting the release of his debut single ‘Maps’ and his first album ‘Patchwork’ (out May 2012) through independent record label ‘Us Is The New Them’. ‘Patchwork’ will be a developed progression from the debut E.P., maintaining the initial values and musicality present on ‘Bare Bones’ whilst offering a more substantial sound.

Fitz. are: Sam Fitzpatrick on Acoustic Guitars and Vocals, Joel Careless on Bass, Percussion and Electric Guitar, Benjamin Maines-Blatherwick on Percussion and Drums, and Richard Potts on Banjo, Percussion and an eclectic array of acoustic instrumentation.

The band can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/FitzOfficialUK and their music is available from: iTunes/Amazon.com/Play.com/Spotify

http://www.fitzofficial.co.uk

http://www.soundcloud.com/fitzofficial

http://www.youtube.com/fitzofficialuk

[J]

Moon & Back Session :: Dave Hughes

© Robert Balmer 2012

“I got the chorus slightly in tune that time…”- Dave Hughes

Dave Hughes recently embarked on a short UK tour with Emma Hallows. Under The Bridge (and, by proxy, Moon & Back) organised a Manchester show for the pair and, whilst we were waiting for things to get rolling, we shot a session with Dave under a bridge.

Dave performed ‘Tacitus (Burn Like A Fire)’ – a track taken from the Hughes/Harker/Hallows split released on Under The Bridge Records – and ‘Mirrors’ for his session. Sorry about all the wind, talking and trains. These are the hazards of filming outside. Regardless, both videos turned out well. Enjoy!

As always the video was shot and edited by Dicking Around Productions. If you have any suggestions as to who we should get in session next, put it in the comments, write to us on Facebook, or send us something on Twitter.

‘Tacitus (Burn Like A Fire)’


‘Mirrors’

Going Underground :: Sam Russo

Sam Russo, looking like a redneck.

“Do you want a tray for all those mugs?” – Sam Russo

I decided to do this issue of Going Underground on Sam Russo for one single reason, if I didn’t do it soon then I never could. There’s a big countdown-esque clock ticking away, and when it hits the “dun-nen, nen-nen, nen-a-nen, duuuun” Russo will be catapulted into the dead centre spot light of “acoustic punk.” Sam Russo is, and this isn’t arguable, the best songwriter the UK has to offer. In fact, if someone wanted to contest against this, the debate might go a little like this, “Sam’s the best!” “No he isn’t.” “You’re an idiot.” “You’re right I am, Sam’s the best.”

It’s funny though, because I was once that exact idiot. The first time I heard Russo was on the Hotel Payphone Carpark Demos track ‘All These Postcards’ and it did nothing for me. The recording was almost inaudible, and I couldn’t understand why I’d heard such great things about this guy. Then I saw Sam live. There was such a raw honesty in the way each line was sung, I not only felt like I could relate wholly, but that I’d been there next to him through every experience of his narrative lyrical style, because the words are where the true magic of Sam Russo lies.

Russo openly admits he hates recording but, thankfully, practically everything else I’ve heard on record is pure gold (can I really count ‘XXXXXXXX’ and his phone call to Giles as pure gold? Well, maybe the latter).

He’s also a fucking nice bloke and if you tell him you’re a poet and show him one you’ve wrote he might just give you a little magpie badge, or maybe that was just me.

Moon & Back Session :: Beans On Toast

“I’m gonna change the name of that song to ‘Egg Free Mayonnaise'” – Beans On Toast

If you’re not familiar already, Beans On Toast is a folk singer/songwriter from Essex, and he might be one of the only artists in recent memory worthy of the ‘folk’ label. His songs are filled with comedy, tales of woe and are as ‘true to life’ as I’ve ever heard come out of any singer/songwriters mouth. Beans was in Manchester for a show, so we decided to record a little session. A session featuring two brand new songs, no less!

The session was recorded at V Revolution – a newly opened punk/hardcore record/vegan lifestyle shop on Oldham Street in Manchester’s Northern Quarter – a place that every music in Manchester should get behind. It’s not often you get someone trying something like this and, they’ll tell you themselves, it’s a bit of risk. Massive thanks to those dudes for helping us out with this one. It’s really hard to record sessions in bad light!

As always, enjoy the session and if you’ve got anyone you’d like to see performing for Moon & Back drop us a comment.

‘Protest Song’

‘Beer & A Burger’

Video :: Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun – ‘A Song About Death’

It’s looking like 2012 is going to be a big year for Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun. The Cheltenham-based band are hotly tipped to do well this year and, with tracks like this one, you can see why. ‘A Song About Death’ is the second (?) single to be taken from the folk-punkers Xtra Mile Recordings debut, and is more than enough to tell you what this band is all about.

‘A Song About Death’ is released today (Feb. 14th) and is taken from the band’s forthcoming album Death, set to be released in April by Xtra Mile Recordings.

Album Review :: Ani DiFranco – ¿Which Side Are You On?

“…just the correct amount of “right-on” politics, sung soothingly through her Buffalo accent and delivered in a heavily poetical style”

It must have been about 2001, I was thirteen and reading an interview with Alkaline Trio’s guitarist Matt Skiba who was mentioning music that inspired him, one of those acts was Ani DiFranco. A few years later a friend of mine downloaded (illegally) the track Gratitude and I fell in love instantly with the stripped down folk sound and intensely emotive lyrical content. I’d heard one song and I was hooked so I headed to the nearest record shop, which was unfortunately HMV, and thankfully found a copy of 2005’s album Reprieve. The album did not disappoint and as soon as I worked out how the hell to order stuff offline I bought every album by DiFranco I could and have eagerly anticipated every release since.

This album is very much an Ani DiFranco album, her style hasn’t changed massively since the 90’s and her initial self titled full length release, but this is by no means a bad thing. If the phrase “if it isn’t broke…” has ever rained true, then Ani is the case in point. That’s not to say the album hasn’t progressed at all, with an interesting use of electronic drums on the title track and the Mars Volta-esque guitar solo two thirds into Amendment, along with the bizarre deep vocal effect on the track J which makes the song sound very much like a homage to the Pennsylvania tripsters, Ween. But apart from some slightly more experimental use of production, the songs themselves feature everything expected from the Feminist virtuoso, featuring just the correct amount of “right-on” politics, sung soothingly through her Buffalo accent and delivered in a heavily poetical style, whilst dashing it all with a tantalising amount of love.
The album is not completely without fault, and the afore mentioned title track becomes a bit of a drag towards the end. Ani’s politics are in the right place but the constant repetition of the title line “Which Side are You on” makes the track sound more of a rant than a justified political statement, but this is only a minor fault on what is otherwise a superb release from Ani.
It wouldn’t be an Ani album without at least a cargo ship full of inspirational lyrics and this record is no exception. There are far too many to mention so I’ll end with what I feel it the most crucial hook in the entire of ¿Which Side Are You On? “If you’re not getting happier as you grow older, you’re fucking up.”

Moon & Back Session :: Chris T-T

“Is it alright if I do a cover?” – Chris T-T

Earlier this month, Chris T-T embarked on a tour of the UK with Franz Nicolay. Whilst in York, we caught up with him and he played us a couple of songs for a Moon & Back Session. A stalwart of the UK folk scene, T-T recently released an album comprised of A.A. Milne poetry having had a fantastic reception at this year’s Edinburgh festival. For his session he performed ‘Halfway Down’ – a song from the Milne record – and a cover of Sebadoh’s ‘Willing To Wait’.

Chris’ session is the final session of 2011, but we’ll be back in the new year and are hoping to continue where we left off. If there’s anyone you’d like to see us have ‘in session’, please leave a comment below, message us on Twitter or post on our Facebook.

Enjoy!

‘Halfway Down’

‘Willing To Wait’ (Sebadoh Cover)