Wednesday, 25 May 2016

CD Reviews For Phil Collins, Eddi Reader and Just Great Songs 2016

Eddi Reader
The Best Of Eddi Reader 
Eddi Reader

It hardly seems that long ago that when the charts were laden with the repetitive beats of Stock Aitken and Waterman songs, Eddi Reader and Fairground Attraction arrived to take music back to its most simplistic but melodic form. The song Perfect hit the top of the charts, and although Fairground Attraction split shortly afterwards Eddi continued as a solo artist and has continued to create, diversify and even educate us with great music in the 25 years since.

The Best of Eddi Reader is a comprehensive collection of 30 tracks, taking in the Fairground Attraction hits Perfect and Find My Love, solo successes Patience Of Angels and What You Do With What You’ve Got as well as renditions of Ay Fond Kiss, Moon River and My Love Is Like a Red Red Rose.

Not just a treasured collection, The Best Of Eddi Reader is an introduction to one of the UK’s greatest singers, listen to this and you’ll want to discover more from her, and she has a solid back catalogue to back every track on here up – a rare accolade indeed!

Just Great Songs 2016
Various Artists

The life span of a hit record these days appears to go a lot further than it would have done 20 or 30 years ago. Maybe that’s because after several weeks (or even months) of a pre release a song can spend an incredible long time floating around in a chart and to a degree even longer on a “no repeat” radio station playlist. If it still has any durability left, the song will then wind up on numerous compilation albums.

Just Great Songs 2016 appears to have done that for tracks which have been around for well over a year including Hozier’s Take Me To Church and One Direction’s History. Still with other contributions from Justin Bieber, Zayn, James Bay and Foxes, this might be the ideal compilation if you want to avoid annoying commercial radio adverts and still hear recent hits.

Phil Collins
Take A Look At Me Now – Retrospective Series
Phil Collins

Its common practice now for artists to revisit their back catalogue and tweak classic albums for remastered and extended editions. Phil Collins, appears to have taken a step further with recent reissues of No Jacket Required, Hello I Must Be Going, Face Value, Dance Into The Light, Both Sides and Testify. These 6 titles bookending an album output of some 30 years.

Not only has Phil given the tracks a significant clean up, but he’s also taken the trouble to recreate the original album artwork with up to date images of himself.

Of course, Phil Collins music goes beyond face value, In The Air Tonight, Both Sides Of The Story and Take Me Home, among others still stand up as great pop songs, and if remastered renditions of classic Collins is still not enough to pull you in there is an extra disc to accompany each album brimming with demos and live rarities.

Now's the time to get caught up on one of the greatest British solo acts of the 80s and 90s, the music of Phil Collins has never sounded better.

  • Versions of these reviews by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement, The Guide during May 2016.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Follow Alice's Adventures In Wonderland At Newport's Dolman Theatre

Sharon Fitzgerald’s musical theatre class under the direction of Andre Paul Spring and Musical Direction of Victoria Bryant are set to bring the magical world of Alice In Wonderland to life on the Dolman Theatre stage this weekend.

Based on the 1951 Disney film Alice in Wonderland and Lewis Carroll’s books The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, the production will be a fun show for all the family.

Featuring updated dialogue and new arrangements of such classic Disney songs as I’m Late, The Un-birthday Song and Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, the audience will join Alice’s madcap adventures in Wonderland as she chases the White Rabbit, races the Dodo Bird, gets tied up with the Tweedles, raps with a bubble-blowing Caterpillar, and beats the Queen of Hearts at her own game!

Alice In Wonderland runs at The Dolman Theatre  from May 28-29 and tickets are available from or by calling box office on 01633 263670.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Laughter Lines: Miles Jupp Gets Set For Humble By Nature Festival

FOLLOWING the sell-out success of The Big Day Out 2015, the festival returns this year from Friday, July 1 to Sunday, July 3 July at Humble by Nature in Monmouthshire, the working farm owned and run by Kate Humble.

The festival promises to be a barrel of laughs with comedians Miles Jupp, Justin Edwards, Lucy Porter and Ivo Graham starting the weekend in style.

Writer, actor and comedian Miles Jupp, who now lives in Monmouthshire, is the host of BBC Radio 4’s The News Quiz and regularly appears on Have I Got News For You, Mock the Week and 8 Out of 10 Cats.

Miles recently took time out to answer questions put to him by Andy Howells.

How did you get into comedy?
I loved watching comedy as a teenager. People would bring videos into school and we would watch them together - things like Jack Dee, Eddie Izzard and Lee Evans. Then I started watching Fry and Laurie, BlackAdder and so forth. We also used to listen to lots in the car as a family - Max Boyce, Tom Lehrer, Victoria Wood.

Who are your comedy heroes?
It changes all the time - but probably the Beyond The Fringe team.

You’ve had a varied acting career as well as been a stand up comedian, how important is it for you to have that balance in your career?
It’s really important to me, but also a source of frustration. I always end up wanting to do the thing I’m doing least of at the time. That also acts as motivation though. The whole thing’s a mess really!

Many people (parents and children) will remember you of course for your role as Archie The Inventor in Balamory. Were there any funny scenarios that happened to you while making that series?
It was 12 years ago we finished that, but we used to laugh a lot as I remember it. And probably get quite grumpy too. The best stuff was when we were on tour. At the Hammersmith Apollo three of us were once left onstage for a minute and a half trying to fill in while someone else was late for their cue. We spoke utter rubbish, whilst giggling hysterically, in front of 3000 people

Another long standing role was as Nigel in Rev. with Tom Hollander. Was that a good show to work on and did you enjoy the situation comedy format?
Rev. was life changing for me. Great bunch of people and a massive opportunity. I’d had smaller parts in a few sitcoms before that, but I really loved it. Getting the chance to play a character over a decent period of time was wonderful.

What has been the funniest thing that has happened to you at a gig?
Something funny happening at a gig? Some sort of disaster probably. In Singapore I once not only died on my arse, but then tripped as I was getting down from the stage and fell full length onto a table full of drinks. This sort of thing is character building, by which I mean completely demoralising.

You’ve recently moved to Monmouthshire – are you enjoying your new surroundings?
I am really enjoying it. So beautiful. They’re not completely new surroundings to me. I’ve been coming here for over ten years to see my wife’s family. She grew up and went to school here.

If you hadn’t become a comedian what do you think you would have become?
A barrister? A dog groomer? Honestly no clue. Perhaps a very serious actor and writer. Perhaps I’ll become that anyway.

You’ll be performing at Humble by Nature – what can fans expect from your performance?
Fans, and indeed non-fans, can expect me doing the sort of thing I normally do, only in a lambing shed.

What else are you working on presently and what can we look out for in future months from yourself?
I am writing some books, and a new stand up show, and also working on some scripts. I also host The News Quiz on BBC Radio 4.

  • Visit for further details on the festival.
  • A version of this Q&A appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on May 20, 2016

Friday, 20 May 2016

September Girls Return With Age Of Indignation - Q&A With Paula Cullen

FORMED in Dublin in 2011 September Girls were named after the Big Star song (by way of The Bangles), September Girls and share songwriting and vocal duties amongst each of the band members. Comprising Paula Cullen on bass, Caoimhe Derwin and Jessie Ward O’Sullivan on guitar, Lauren Kerchner on keys and drummer Sarah Grimes, they recently released their follow up to 2014's Cursing The Sea entitled Age of Indignation.As opposed to their debut album, which was recorded mainly at home, Age of Indignation was recorded at Dublin’s Orphan Studios, lending it a more assured, powerful sound.

The album coincides with a UK tour which sees the band play Cardiff’s Moon Club on May 20. Andy Howells recently put questions to Paula from the band.

Its been two years since your debut Cursing The Sea, how was your first album received?
It was remarkably well received which was a lovely surprise to us. By the time it was released, a lot of the songs felt really old to us, so it was nice to see them being viewed in a new light.

How have you progressed as a group since the debut albums release?
If we wanted to replicate what we did two years ago with the first album, I think it would have been easy for us to knock out another one in a similar vein and not mess with the formula too much. However, the decision to move in the direction that we did was entirely conscious. We knew we might alienate some of the people who liked the first album in doing so, but it was important for us artistically to change.

Have you had a particular highlight along the way?
I think my personal highlight was our American road trip on the way to SXSW this year. We drove from LA to Austin, stopping off in the Mojave Desert, Joshua Tree and Roswell. We got to visit the Joshua Tree Inn where Gram Parsons died, which sounds like a pretty macabre destination for a day trip, but it was really special. That, and Bobby Gillespie coming to one of our London gigs when the first album was released.

Age Of Indignation, is your latest release, can you give us a bit of background to it?
The main themes of our album are Ireland, feminism & religion, the Catholic Church being the focus of a couple of songs. ‘Catholic Guilt’ for example deals with anger towards the Catholic Church, particularly from the viewpoint of being a woman.

The Catholic Church in Ireland still exerts a patriarchal force over women’s bodily autonomy, (evident from our draconian abortion laws) something which would be unthinkable in most other progressive countries. This force is exerted by the same Catholic Church who covered up years of child sexual abuse by its members. ‘Jaw On The Floor’ is inspired by past generations of feminists, as well as the 1916 Rising in Ireland and equal rights activists all over the world. It is frustrating to see that while we’ve come a long way in terms of equality, we have a long way to go. There are forces who continue to push agendas to uphold privilege and the status quo, as well as the spread of misinformation about the meaning of words such as “feminism”.

Other themes on the album include domestic violence & victim blaming, the vacuousness of social media and the norm of the straight white male being intrinsically ingrained in the bones of all society.

There’s a bit of a darker sound, this time around to the recordings, whats the inspiration behind that?
I think the music followed the lead of the lyrical themes this time around for sure, I don’t think it was that way on the first album. I know that personally, I had ideas and lyrics for songs before I wrote the music. I think last time around, I fitted the lyrics into the music which was already written. I think this album has more of a concept than the last so it made sense to do it that way.

September Girls will shortly be back out on tour, what can fans expect if they’ve never seen you play live before?
We are a bit louder and harsher live than our recorded output might suggest. We usually get quite immersed in the music as the show goes on and there will be a lot of shouting and hair flying about.

What are you listening to at the moment?
Flying Burrito Brothers, Breadwoman, Cate Le Bon, Earth, Parquet Courts.

Where can people find out more about September Girls? or
  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide during May 2016

Thursday, 19 May 2016

In Concert: Brian Wilson - Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary Tour, St David's Hall, Cardiff

Brian Wilson is high up there in life’s soundtrack when it comes to the music of the 1960s. His current world tour which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the album Pet Sounds proves why, delivering so much more than the hits of the Beach Boys.

Wilson’s 12 strong band is a very solid and tight affair encompassing strings, brass and percussion. Opening up with the 1968 hit Heroes and Villains they delivered further music gold with I Get Around, Wild Honey and California Girls.

Watching Wilson lead on piano was an absolute joy as he not only performs but also feels the music too. Vocalists including fellow Beach Boy founder, Al Jardine, Matt Jardine and Blondie Chapman who recreated The Beach Boys melodic harmonies to perfection.

The main menu of 1966’s Pet Sounds album was served in the second half, displaying that the album format is far from dead as appreciative cheers came from the audience on hearing tracks such as Wouldn’t It Be Nice and Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)

The real highlight was God Only Knows described by one lady as “the sweetest song ever written”and it was pure magic to hear Brian Wilson give it the live treatment.

The encore was equally uplifting, with the audience out of their seats dancing to classics Good Vibrations, All Summer Long and Help Me Rhonda, all of which brought a Summer vibe to what was already a warm evening of music memories for everyone in attendance.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Meet The Band: The Heavy

Bath quartet The Heavy recently released Hurt and The Merciless, their self-produced fourth album and their most powerful and personal release to date. Whilst making the album, the band which includes Kelvin Swaby, Dan Taylor, Spencer Page and Chris Ellul went some pretty dark times including death, divorce, near break-ups and breakdowns. Andy Howells recently put questions to Chris about the album and the bands current tour.

How did you come together?
The band was started by Dan and Kelvin, who made the first record and signed to Counter Records in 2007. Spencer had been playing with them for a few years by the time they signed that deal. The signing meant they needed to tour and make more of the live show and that was when I joined the band. 9 years later we're still here!

How would you describe your style of music?
Our music is a melting pot of our different influences. But I guess that comes out sounding like Soul/Rock n Roll. But it's not traditional, we try and make it larger than life and adopt modern recording technology in to what we do to create something less generic sounding.

What’s your best live experience?
As a punter? Probably seeing Primal Scream around the time they released Vanishing Point or Exterminator. At that time I was massively into what they were doing, blending Indie and Dance, and doing it well. But the experience was more than just listening to the music. It was the first gig I'd been to that was a more involved production. And I guess that was an eye opener for me, how the sound, visuals and lights affected what I felt.

Can you tell us about your current release?
'Hurt and The Merciless' is a development in our sound. It's the first time we've sat in a room and worked out everything before going anywhere near making any recordings or demos. We wanted to make a bolder and bigger sounding album than before. In the past Dan or Kelve would demo their ideas, and inevitably that demo recording would be what we built upon. This time everything was from the ground up, which I think gives this record more dynamics and edge. The songs are stronger. It's my favourite record of ours.

Who are your music inspirations?
Whilst we share many of the same influences, there are some that are more prevalent and personal to each of us. I'm listening to a lot of Jonathan Richmond, Leonard Cohen and Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers at the moment. But I could never pin my influences down to one or two things. It all depends on my moods and what's happening in my life.

What was the first record you bought?
The first album I bought was The Best Of Chuck Berry on tape cassette, from Woolworths in 1990! Back to back hits. You can't beat it.

Where can we see you live?
The UK dates seem to be selling out fast but you can catch us on a short tour between May 12th-18th. We'll be playing Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow, London and Bristol… in that order.

  • A version of this Q&A appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment section The Guide on May 13, 2016.

Ross Leadbeater Takes Great British Songbook On Tour

Following his critically acclaimed West End concerts, Ross Leadbeater, the award winning Welsh singer-pianist and musical director, celebrates his musical favourites when he brings The Great British Songbook to Blackwood Miners Institute on May 18.

From Ivor Novello to Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lionel Bart to Leslie Bricusse, with The Beatles, Take That, Coldplay and Gilbert & Sullivan - there is something for everyone in this not-to-be-missed opportunity to enjoy the massive hits and forgotten gems.

Ross shot to fame in 2008 with the Classical Brit Award winning group Only Men Aloud, having released two albums with Decca Records, achieving worldwide record sales of over 300,000 and performing alongside artists such as Shirley Bassey, Katherine Jenkins and Josh Groban.

He regularly appears on BBC Radio including BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio London and recently on the BBC Radio 2 music documentary Keep The Home Fires Burning. His television appearances include The Royal Variety Show, Proms in the Park, and The One Show.  Andy Howells recently put questions to Ross about the forthcoming show and his new EP.

You’re going out on tour with your debut EP, what does that feel like?
It’s amazing to be finally releasing my debut EP and taking my favourite British songs all around the country. Of course, it’s particularly great to be kicking it all off here in Wales.

Can you give us some background to the EP what's it called and what was the inspiration behind it?
It’s called Great British Songbook and it’s a very personal collection of some of the great British songs of all time including Pure Imagination, Keep The Home Fires Burning and Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud. It all started with the music of Ivor Novello - I put together a concert in London two years ago and the project has just developed from there.

Of course, people will be familiar with you as a member of Only Men Aloud, so what can we hope to see when we see you live on stage?
Well, unlike the days of Only Men Aloud where we played to huge arenas and concert halls, this is a much more intimate experience - just me and my piano. It’s up close and personal with some special guests too.

You clearly have a love for great songs, who do you enjoy listening to?
I’ve always enjoyed great songs in all styles of music really, from classical to musical theatre, pop/rock to jazz. My mum and dad always enjoyed listening to music and we had a wide and varied record collection in the house so I guess I get it from them.

Are there any particular pieces you are looking forward to performing in the forthcoming shows?
Oh, thats a difficult one…there are so many to chose from but I guess I am looking forward to performing the new version of Novello’s Keep The Home Fires Burning and also an original song which was written for me called Piano For Sale. There is a real variety of songs in the show, and my personal favourites are the ones from the golden age.

What are you looking forward to most about touring?
It’s exciting to be meeting fans of my music all around the country. Since starting the concerts in London two years ago - I have been connecting with fans on social media so it’s finally a chance to get out on the road and meet them.

What other projects are you working on at the moment?
I guess I’m lucky in that I have a dual career as a musical director so I get to work with lots of talented and amazing artists and on a wide variety of projects. Anything from theatre productions to radio shows, television programmes to film. It’s good to be busy I guess- and this year I’m heading up to the Edinburgh Festival in August so that is exciting!

Ross Leadbeater’s Great British Songbook is available for digital download on iTunes from May 18th and will be available in physical form on Amazon and on his UK Tour dates from 4th June. The tour kicks off in Blackwood on 18th May at Check out for more details.

  • A version of this Q&A appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on Friday May 13, 2016.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Ballet Cymru Bring Roald Dahl Magic To The Stage

AWARD-WINNING company Ballet Cymru is set to present an extraordinary vision at Newport Riverfront next weekend – two stories from the mind of the most popular storyteller in the world, Roald Dahl.

Roald Dahl was born and grew up in Cardiff, and to celebrate the centenary of this famous author, two of his hugely popular stories are coming home to Wales in ballet adaptations. Ballet Cymru has been granted permission from The Dahl Foundation to produce two works based on sections of the wonderful Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs. This outstanding classical ballet was choreographed by Darius James and Amy Doughty, inspired by the outstanding and internationally recognised musical scores by composer Paul Patterson.

Gwen Davies of Ballet Cymru
Photograph: Sian Trenberth Photography
Cardiff born Gwen Davies is one of the newest members of Ballet Cymru and recently answered questions put to her by Seren Howells.

How long have you been dancing?
I started dancing when I was 4 years old so that’s 14 years!

Have you always been passionate about ballet and what inspired you to become a dancer?
When I was younger I always used to love dancing around to music and a nursery teacher suggested to take me to ballet classes. I started and never looked back from there! I don't think I really understood that it can actually be a career properly until I was in full time training at Elmhurst and then I was more inspired by the dancing that you are constantly immersed in from older students to professional dancers. I think it’s then you see performances and think that one day you would really like to be doing those parts on stage.

How did you get involved with Ballet Cymru?
I got to know the company through the summer schools they run in the Riverfront in Newport. I've been going since I was 8 years old and have been every year up until now! When I was 15 I also started to dance in company classes and then this year auditioned for the company as I was in my graduate year in school.

A Scene from Red Riding Hood:
Photograph: John Bishop
Where did you train as a dancer and how long have you been on point?
I started training locally in Cardiff with the Mandy and Shirley Morris school of dance. When I was 8 I auditioned for The Royal Ballet's Junior Associates in Bristol and was successful, so I also took fortnightly classes there too. At ten I started dancing on pointe and the same year I auditioned for Elmhurst in association with Birmingham Royal Ballet for their associate program, so I also took fortnightly classes here, alternating between all three! When I was 11, I auditioned for Elmhurst vocational school and was offered a scholarship so I started training full time in Birmingham. I stayed here until March of this year when I moved to Ballet Cymru.

Do you do any other styles apart from ballet and if so, which ones do you enjoy?
I have trained in many different styles like contemporary, jazz, flamenco, a bit of tap and recently have learnt a bit of Welsh clog dancing for Ballet Cymru's production of Romeo and Juliet. I enjoy trying a bit of everything really, but out of those other than ballet my favourite is contemporary and we use a lot in the productions we are performing at the moment. It’s also been really useful to have tried lots of different styles as the different skills often come in handy in choreography!

Who are you playing in the forthcoming Ballet Cymru presentation?
At the moment in Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs I'm playing a sheep, a grandma and a forest sprite. In Romeo and Juliet I'm performing Lady Capulet. You couldn't really get much more of a contrast between the two! Having said that I'm learning pretty much all the roles, just in case of any injuries or change of casts.

Are you a fan of the work of Roald Dahl and is it exciting presenting the medium of his work through ballet?
Yes, I've always been a fan of his writing from a very young age and I think I've read all his works! Its definitely a change to Romeo and Juliet which is obviously a lot more serious. His storyline and characters are so much fun to perform and play.

Ballet Cymru's Red Riding Hood
What piece of work has given you the most joy as a performer?
Most recently I performed Sugar Plum Fairy in various competitions but also in a performance where I returned to my old dance school so I have really fond memories of the piece. It’s also such an iconic piece, which is pretty tough to do well the whole way without getting tired, but you get a real sense of achievement from doing it. For me I think it’s also the pieces I've performed with a live orchestra like Romeo and Juliet with Birmingham Royal Ballet. The sound is just incredible you can almost feel your hair stand on end! It allows you to really lose yourself in the performance and it doesn’t really feel like your acting.

What advice would you give to aspiring young dancers who are thinking of becoming professional?
Lots and lots of hard work and determination! It’s always important to enjoy what you’re doing but also to be strong enough to keep going through any setbacks. Also try as many different styles and also other art-forms as possible and to watch as many professional dancers as you can and learn from them!

  • Catch Ballet Cymru at Newport Riverfront on May 20 and 21. Visit for further details.

Newport's Darling Buds Join Gigantic All-Dayer Festival Line-Up

Ahead of the appearance of legendary Newport Indie pop band The Darling Buds at Manchester’s Gigantic All-Dayer later this month, Andy Howells chats to Andrea Lewis of the band.

The Darling Buds in 2016
Photograph: Mute Elephant/Mark Blundell
Second chances don’t come around very often, but for fans of Newport’s 80’s indie-poppers The Darling Buds, that is exactly what will happen at the Gigantic All-Dayer Volume 3 which takes place at Manchester Academy on Saturday May 28, as there will be an opportunity to catch the band live in a festival environment.

“It’s an all day event featuring bands from back in the day when the Buds were around” says Darling Buds lead vocalist Andrea Lewis.

The Darling Buds will feature alongside other indie favourites Jesus Jones, The Wonder Stuff, BMX Bandits and The House of Love at the all-day Bank Holiday event.

Catching The Darling Buds at such an event is quite a rarity, as they didn't do many festival appearances in the UK back in the late 80s. “We did places like Germany and Spain, with bands like The Pogues, and The Stray Cats,” says Andrea,” it was quite a big thing abroad.” The Darling Buds however are looking forward to the atmosphere of The All-Dayer, fueled by their appearance at last years Indie Tracks Festival. “It poured down the whole time we were on stage,” laughs Andrea, “it had a lovely atmosphere, there were some old indie pop bands on and we could take our children so we had a really good time.”

Andrea along with Chris McDonagh, Geraint Farr and Richard Gray formed The Darling Buds in Newport during 1986 “Newport is where we hailed from, with TJ’s and all that going on,” recalls Andrea “We were a tiny bit before the Manic Street Preachers, Catatonia and Stereophonics but I think we were one of the first with the indie sound. Recently I saw an old fanzine that someone gave me at a gig; we did something like 220 gigs in one year, we were just gigging all the time. There wasn’t a lot of interest back in Wales in the very early days, although there was a scene going on in Newport around TJ’s. Promoters were getting in a lot of the Seattle and American bands and we supported the Butt Hole Surfers at Newport Leisure Centre once but we just got in a van and went wherever people wanted us to play.”

The Darling Buds in the 1990s
Following the release of The Darling Buds debut single If I Said, Radio 1 Disc Jockey John Peel gave the record exposure on his late night show. “The media in Cardiff showed a bit more of an interest but we were at this very embryonic stage releasing one little single which John Peel played straight away. We were hardly a formed band, he played us and we just started going out doing gigs”.

Success for The Darling Buds followed in 1988 following their signing to Sony Records. They released the singles Burst and Hit The Ground which both entered the charts and their debut album Pop Said... went Top Thirty. “We did write our own stuff,” says Andrea,“it was heavily influenced by what we were listening to. When I grew up, all we had in our house was Beatles, Byrds and Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust. All very sixties sounding stuff and obviously that played a massive part in forming my own sense of melodies and song writing. The boys were always into the heavier guitar music which I would listen to and it all kind of merged.”

The Darling Buds had also gained success in the US in Billboard’s Modern Rock chart with their singles Lets Go Round There, Crystal Clear and Please Yourself. Back in the UK they released two further albums Crawdaddy and Erotica before finally disbanding in 1993.

“Looking back, it feels like a previous life,” continues Andrea, “I was 18 when the band started and 25 when we split up. It was a massive part of growing up; we did three albums, loads of gigs and lots of touring. We loved it. It was a bit of a shock to all of us when it did end but it felt it was time to wrap things up.”  In the years that followed Andrea turned her talents to acting and radio presenting as well as starting a family with her husband, the actor Jamie Jarvis.

The Darling Buds reformed briefly for Newport’s TJ’s In the Square event in 2010 which paid tribute to legendary TJ’s owner John Sicolo. “We really wanted to do that,” recalls Andrea, “we thought we were only going to do that one show but afterwards we thought it'd be nice to do a few more. Then, a few years ago the promoter Grant Holby of Mute Elephant called me of the blue and asked would we do another one-off thing which always amazes me because I think who’d want to come and see us?”

The 30th anniversary of The Darling Buds formation has seen the band back out on the road with Andrea and Chris McDonagh now joined by Matt Gray, Chaz Watkins & Erik Stams. Among their recent shows have been a sell out anniversary show at London’s 100 Club, Newport’s Le Pub and a fabulous acoustic set for World Record Store Day at Diverse Music.

The Darling Buds in 2016
Photograph: Mute Elephant/ Mark Blundell
Visitors to the forthcoming Gigantic All-Dayer later this month can expect to hear all the classic Darling Buds hits once again, “Its good playing the old Buds stuff,” says Andrea, “I thought I’d be embarrassed by singing those old songs but actually I’m fine with it. They are funny little pop tunes and I quite enjoy singing them so I’m happy to do it”

With The Darling Buds return to live performing, have Andrea and her band mates  been inspired to get back into song writing as well as performing.

“We’ve written some stuff,” Andrea confirms, “We played a few songs last year which have already had the thumbs up from all those who followed us around back in the day. We had a really good response from that so we’ll definitely get in the studio and record some new material just to get it out there and see what people think.”

The Gigantic Indie All Dayer Vol.3 takes place on Bank Holiday Saturday May 28 at Manchester Academy. Doors will open at 1.30 pm. All ages are welcome but under 14s must be accompanied by an adult aged over 18. For further details on the event visit and to stay in touch with the latest news from The Darling Buds visit their Facebook page.
  • A version of this interview appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on May 13, 2016.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Meet The Artist: Recreations

RECREATIONS (Sam Duckworth, formerly Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly.) recently released his first full-length album, Baby Boomers 2, a self-produced collection full of wide-eyed, big-dreaming, conscientious pop songs.

Recreations may be a new moniker for Sam, but his work ethic and refusal to stick to a template in either influence or sound is not just familiar but oh-so welcome. Falling half way between Get Cape..and his experiments, Recreations is the product of two years of investigation. Fans of GC.WC.F. will recognise his distinct lyrical sound, but in his own words Recreations is "more heart on sleeve, bolder, more direct, and a little bit more emo."

Andy Howells recently put questions to Sam ahead of his Le Pub show on May 14.

How did Recreations start - did you plan to end Get Cape. to reinvent as Recreations or was it a decision that was made after you finished as GC.WC.F.?
It felt to me that the Get Cape. name had reached its limitations, certainly felt like a product of a bygone era. It's important to me as a somewhat political musician, to stay as current as possible. I started to see 'nostalgia' creep in on posters and it was at this point that I decided that it was time for a new moniker. Get Cape. Served me well, but having to explain the name to people on a regular basis, coupled with the desire for anew beginning lead me to think of a new name. I had the recreations name before the end of Get Cape.. and the plan was always to transition into it, regardless of the sonic direction of the project. I had always planned to continue playing the older songs from my catalogue, but I liked the idea of being able to give these a twist following whichever direction Recreations took.

How would you describe your music?
I generally tend to describe it as Eclectic. The backbone certainly comes from a more "clubby" space, be it hip hop, house or jungle, whilst the songwriting is very much folk. Folktronica was a thing for a while, but was typified by a more lofi sound and Recreations has a very strong, subby bottom end, so doesn't really fit. I believe in 2016, partly due to the vast volume of music on offer, that music is becoming genre-less. I've always been into the idea of mixing things up and thankfully this has always been accepted by people who listen to my music. The commonality between the tracks is usually the finger style guitar and the delivery of my vocal.

Who are your musical inspirations?
My musical influences are very much eclectic like the sound I try to fuse together. I grew up as a punk, playing diy shows and working with a community that was very much focused on the idea of being yourself, taking risks, all whilst sticking together. Similar scenes exist in different sonic spaces, be it Drum and Bass or Indie or House. I tend to gravitate towards musical communities where expression is the key driving force over commercial success. As much as I love the idea that this is my job, at times it feels more like a calling. Shy Fx has been a big influence, certainly in terms of how to carve out longevity and move with the times. Billy Bragg has been great at teaching me how to stand tall in the wind tunnel of political music. I think that I am blessed to be surrounded by inspiring people, there's very much an undercurrent of change within British independent music as the last days of the old guard grind to a halt. I find more inspiration in the thought that "anything's possible" than anything else. To be surrounded by people who subscribe to the same ideology is both refreshing and uplifting.

Can you tell us about your current release?
Baby Boomers 2 is certainly my most focused record to date. In many ways it feels like a continuance of the writing style I have previously used but by having a new beginning its allowed me to be a little more defined in the sonic pallet. Lyrically, the album is about the gap between the "Millenials" and the "Baby Boomers."
Those that used to be called Gen X'ers, and the clunky titled "pre millennials." I think there is a massive social divide inside a traditional generation gap, mostly in regards the time social media and mobile tech was adopted by the user. Specifically, did this happen pre or post puberty. I feel that social media has had more of an influence on young people than any single factor since the second world war. Having been 20 when this boom really started, I often meet people who had social media in secondary school and feel a much larger communication divide than I expected. The traits of the millennials that are attributed to people around my age do not feel applicable, yet I also don't feel like a product of the Gen X era.
The reason for Baby Boomers 2, is due to a repeat in the social conditions of the first Baby Boom, vast wealth increase, mass reproduction but also the conditions of the downward curve. I feel like, similarly, this generation has a massive class gap between parents and children, certainly in the inner cities. Many working class parents found their property almost tripling in value and its not uncommon to find children of working class parents with the disposable income and opportunity of the upper classes. As a result there is a generation in flux. There seems to be a rise in social anthropological thinking along these lines, but its complexities have made it difficult to translate into "big marketing" and thus we have become a terminology-less generation.
Why Baby Boomers 2? I thought it was funny, but certainly comes from a place of connectivity between the songs.

What's been your live show highlight so far?
There have been so many, for that I feel very blessed. One of my favourites was the Amazing Grace Glastonbury show. The idea was to make a 1 hour long, live mixtape, using at least 5 different artists and 5 different genres. We had Billy Bragg, Kate Nash, Jehst, Riz Mc, Rumour Cubes, Sweet Billy Pilgrim and Myself rotating instruments and positions whilst keeping the flow of the show intact. We pooled resources to have 2 sets of drums, a horn section, a string section and a constant narrative without breaking the musical flow. It took about 2 months to put together, required 37 passes and 3 vehicles, which in a festival that size was a challenge in itself. The fact it went so well fills me with great pride. I also loved being a part of Africa Express. Reworking Felas classic "Water no get enemy" into a live Jungle song with Flea, Shy Fx, The Gorillaz, Kano, Bashy and my get cape band was a really fun thing to do.
I'm a big fan of stepping out of my comfort zone and trying to push myself as far as possible with the limitations feeling like shackles that need to come off.

What can we expect from your forthcoming Newport Gig?
Newport feels a bit like a second home to me. I met my partner in Newport and spent 18 months committing up for weekends. I have a lot of love and respect for Sam, Matt and all those involved with Le Pub. It's a hub of musical community that is very much outward looking. They spend a great deal of time working on causes greater than just "having a good time."
I feel like Newport is an incredibly underrated place, lots of enthusiastic and creative minds. As a result I imagine this is going to feel like a hometown show. Lots of fun and lots of energy. I've spent a long time building this live show. It was a dream of mine at the very beginning to be able to play multiple instruments and to loop and effect my voice and instruments without having to break stride in the song. Thankfully the technology has caught up and I'm able to bring a one man show that has visuals and a dynamic that makes it feel more like a show than an acoustic gig. This is the closest I've been able to replicate my imagination into a physical entity and its going to be lovely sharing it with my friend in Newport.

What can we expect from you in the future?
Without trying to sound too cliche, I just want to play! Now I am confident in both the portability and tangibility of this show, I want to play everywhere and anywhere. I am very committed to both the sound and the subject matter of this record and am determined to bring it to anywhere that is willing. I am of a firm belief that the most exciting places in the UK are outside of the major cities, that the fringes have the creative room to breathe and develop ideas. Newport will always feel like a musical second home, as long as Le Pub is still there, so I hope this will be the first in a new love affair between Recreations and Newport.
  • A version of this Q&A appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement, The Guide on May 13, 2016.
  • For further details on Recreations visit his official website.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Meet The Artist: Hattie Briggs

Hattie Briggs is a Gloucestershire based singer-songwriter and BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award Nominee 2014. The 22 year-old quit Oxford University in the 2nd year of her Russian degree to concentrate on her musical career in January 2014. Since then, her music has been played on TV, on BBC Radio 1, 2 and 6Music as well as many regional BBC radio stations. She released her debut album ‘Red & Gold’ last year. The album includes a cover of Eva Cassidy’s version of ‘Fields Of Gold’, produced by Eva's brother, Dan Cassidy, who also plays a violin solo on the record.

​Hattie released her debut EP ‘My Shepherd’s Hut’ in November 2013, and has subsequently had 5 singles in the iTunes singer-songwriter chart, including ‘Pull Me Down’ that reached number 19, and ’Old Eyes’, that features jazz musician Alec Dankworth.

Inspired by the likes of Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, Hattie recorded her debut album at Monnow Valley Studios, and it was produced by Waterman (Joss Stone/Uriah Heep/Emma Ballantine). 2016 already promises to be an exciting year for Hattie, her currentUK tour sees her play Ten Feet Tall, Cardiff this evening (May 6) she recently answered questions from Andy Howells.

How did you get into playing music?
I remember singing along to my parents CDs in the car and at home from a very young age. It was something that came naturally to me and I never really thought about it as a skill. When I was 5 I started learning the recorder and later moved on to the guitar and the cello. I can't remember a time when music wasn't a big part of my life, but things became more focused when I started writing my own songs at 17. From then on it became an addiction and something that I can't turn off.

How would you describe your sound?
It's a fusion of folk, pop, americana and quite a few other genres as my influences are pretty broad ranging. My recordings are very immersive, warm and full of rich instrumentation.

Who are your music inspirations?
Primarily the singer-songwriters I grew up listening to - James Taylor, Eva Cassidy, The Beatles, Elton John, K D Lang, Joni Mitchell, but more recently First Aid Kit, James Blake, Katie Melua, The Weepies, The Civil Wars, David Gray and loads of others.

What can people expect from your forthcoming show?
I'll be playing as a trio so there'll be lots of harmonies along with cello and extra guitar. We'll be performing songs from my debut album "Red & Gold" as well as newer songs from my forthcoming album "Young Runaway". I play guitar, uke and keys so there'll be a good mix of upbeat numbers and slower more chilled out tunes.

Can you tell us about your current release?
My second studio album "Young Runaway" comes out on July 8th and has a definite summery feel to it. It has more of a pop/americana vibe than my first album but is still very much in the "singer-songwriter" genre. It's much more upbeat and percussion driven than "Red & Gold", which had more of a contemplative folky vibe.

Who are you currently listening to?
The Weepies, Lewis & Leigh, Hozier, John Smith, Seafret, Adam Holmes...

Where can people find out more about your music?
By visiting my website
  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on May 6, 2016

David Troughton Discusses Bringing Goodnight Mr Tom To The Stage

This year will mark the 35th anniversary of the modern classic Goodnight Mister Tom and next week Michelle Magorian’s wonderfully uplifting tale will be brought gloriously to life in a magical stage adaptation, in Cardiff from Tuesday May 10 – Saturday May 14 at the New Theatre.

Set during the dangerous build up to the Second World War, Goodnight Mister Tom follows young William Beech, who is evacuated to the idyllic English countryside and forges a remarkable and heart-warming friendship with the elderly recluse, Tom Oakley.

Author Michelle Magorian was inspired to write Goodnight Mister Tom after hearing her mother’s tales about her time as a nurse in the war. Published in 1981, it has been translated into 11 languages and won awards in the UK, America and Australia.

Adapted for the stage by David Wood OBE, Goodnight Mr Tom stars David Troughton, best known for his roles in A Very Peculiar Practice, Doctor Who and recently Tony Archer in The Archers on BBC Radio 4. Andy Howells recently chatted to David about Goodnight Mr Tom and his career.

How did you get involved with the stage version of Goodnight Mr Tom?
I was asked to do it by Angus Jackson, the director, I thought about it, as it was a part I always wanted to play, so I said “Yes”.

How does the stage version compare to the TV film we all know and love which starred John Thaw?
Very different. Film and television are poles apart it’s a completely theatrical adaptation which is brilliant by David Wood. It’s a fast moving roller-coaster of emotions. I thought the film concentrated on Mr Tom, that’s how they did it, the stage version is about the children which is good.

How did you become familiar with the story?
When I first read it to my children in the 80s after it first came out. They had it read to them at school, so it’s been with us for a long time.

You’ve been an actor for many years yourself, were you a child actor?
I did one show when I was about eleven; it was an Armchair Theatre on ITV (The Tin Whistle Man). The scriptwriter Ken Taylor got me that and then I did a couple of things with my father (Patrick Troughton), in Doctor Who.

Did your father encourage you to be an actor?
(Laughs) No, not at all! I think you follow in your fathers footsteps a lot of the time, I think its in my genes to be an actor, two of my sons have become actors, my nephews an actor, my brothers an actor and my wife an actress.

What are your memories of appearing in Doctor Who with your father?
I was an extra in a story where he played two parts, The Doctor and a ruthless Mexican dictator (The Enemy of The World). They just found those episodes and you can see me in it. It’s a long time ago. I’ve been an actor for over 45 years I should get a medal for longevity! Playing different parts is the secret, not doing the same thing all the time.

You also returned to Doctor Who a few years later playing King Peladon opposite Jon Pertwee, what was that like?
It was lovely, he was such a welcoming man, very funny, but he took it very seriously which you have to. People take the rip out of Doctor Who sometimes but you’ve got to play it for truth.

Was there ever a role you were particularly keen to get?
When you read a script, you know you want to do the part; I really felt that with A Very Peculiar Practice (in which David starred alongside Graham Crowden and Peter Davison) and the role of Bob Buzzard. There was a lot of laughter because they were very funny scripts. As I say, you play it for all its worth and truth, it doesn’t stop you having a laugh because what’s the point of doing it unless you enjoy it.

You also had a contrasting role in New Tricks in which you played a bad guy. Was that fun to play?
Baddies are always good to play and you hope they are the most unlike you! I was termed as a character actor. You don’t get so much of that now because people cast to type, you’ve got to be the person; you’ve got to look like them. Gone are the days, like what my father did for television that you could put on a wig or a beard. People don’t do that now which is unfortunate.

And of course, even though you are very much your own actor, you have helped keep the torch burning for your fathers association with Doctor Who.
When he was doing it, it was just another children’s show, he was the first person to take over the character on screen but it wasn’t the big mammoth giant it is now.

You even stepped into your father’s role of the second Doctor opposite Tom Baker a few years ago in an audio adventure?
I did, they were a bit tentative in asking me and then I read the script, it wasn’t the actual Doctor. I was playing a robot version of him, that was alright (laughs), it was once removed. I’ve read stories that have had my father in it, so I have to imitate him a bit. I do love it, reading books, radio; you don’t have to learn the lines. I think he’d laugh at what I was doing really!

You last appeared in Doctor Who opposite David Tennant some years back, would you like to be in it again?
I’d love too!

Back on to Goodnight Mr Tom, how long are you continuing and what will you be doing afterwards?
After Cardiff, we finish at the end of May in Newcastle, I’ll have a little break and then I’ll go back to the RSC to play Gloucester in King Lear. It seems to be the year of Lear’s there’s about four of them knocking about and I’ll be in one of them!

Are there any roles you still haven’t played you’d like to have a go at?
Shakespeare-wise Falstaff or Prospero and any series that goes as long as Downton Abbey and be assured of seven months work a year and then I can retire.
  • Goodnight Mr Tom runs at Cardiff’s New Theatre from May 10 –14. To purchase tickets please visit or call 02920 878 889.
  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appears in The South Wales Argus entertainment section The Guide on May 6, 2016

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Meet Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker

To win the Best Duo category at the 2015 BBC Folk Awards is quite an achievement at any stage of an artists’ career. But just two years prior to this accolade Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker were virtually unknown on the folk scene. So their success is quite remarkable.

Now signed to Rough Trade Records, Josienne and Ben are currently touring extensively in the UK and are set to play Acapela Studio, Pentrych, Cardiff on May 7.

Although Ben Walker (who grew up in Worcestershire) studied classical guitar from childhood and Josienne Clarke (from West Sussex) is a classical music degree dropout, both are keen to stress that they’re “bog standard comprehensive school kids” who didn’t benefit from a conservatoire education. The elegance and sophistication of their music comes entirely from their own discipline, rigour and craft. To emphasise the point, Josienne has been known to quip: “We’re not posh, just pretentious!” Their  album Nothing Can Bring Back The Hour was a hugely ambitious, uncompromised realisation of everything Josienne and Ben had planned when they met six years ago.

After their ovation-stirring rendition of The Banks of The Sweet Primroses at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards last year, 6 Music DJ Cerys Matthews fell in love with the music of Josienne and Ben and invited them to appear in the National Theatre’s production of Our Country's Good. The play, which ran from August to October 2015 at the Olivier Theatre, also featured two of Josienne and Ben’s original compositions. Andy Howells recently put questions to the pair.

How did you both get into music?
Ben - I started playing classical guitar when I was 7 but got into electric guitar and guitar bands in general in my teens. When I met Josienne I started listening to people like Martin Simpson, Pierre Bensusan, John Reborn, and Nick Jones and this has really influenced my approach and style of playing.
Josienne - I sang at school, in choirs and school productions. As I got older I got interested in song writing and although I tried classical singing, I didn’t enjoy it.

Ultimately you both decided to collaborate what was the story behind that?
Josienne - Ben was playing electric guitar in and Indie band. A mutual friend of ours was the sound engineer for their record. Ben went over to pick up the audio files and had a go on his Martin acoustic guitar. He said ‘If you can play acoustic guitar like that, what are you doing playing in that band?’ He knew I was looking for a guitarist and introduced us and here we are - 6 years on.

How do you find working together as opposed to working as solo artists?
Ben - I’ve never worked as a solo artist so I couldn’t say!
Josienne - I’ve never really been comfortable playing guitar on stage so having Ben with me means I can concentrate on my favourite bit - the singing.

How have things changed since you won the BBC Folk Award?
Josienne - It’s helped us in that bookings have gone up and more people have heard of us. Actually, I think performing on the night (which was broadcast live on Radio 2 and on the iPlayer) probably helped more than winning the award itself because lots of people tell us that’s where they first saw us play.

Whats been your best live experience?
Josienne - Playing Stage 2 at Cambridge Folk Festival last year in front of several thousand people was really special.

Can you tell us about your latest album?
Josienne - Nothing Can Bring Back The Hour came out in October 2014 and we’ve just finished recording our new album which is coming out on Rough Trade Records this autumn. We’re really excited about that and spent a week in Rockfield Studios in Wales with a great bunch of musicians. We’re really excited about that.

What can people expect from your forthcoming Cardiff show?
Josienne - It will be just Ben and I, playing songs from all of our albums and a few new ones too.

What else will you be doing this year – anywhere we can look out for you?
Josienne - we’re touring the UK in May and June. We’re playing a few festivals including Ely, Towersey, Boom Town Fair and End of The Road. We will be back out again in the autumn when the album comes out.

Where can people find out more about you and your music? twitter @josienneandben facebook - Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker
Visit for booking details

  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on April 29, 2016