Review by Pete Callaghan
Whilst my back was turned, a scene of young, devoted musicians has seemingly emerged in the heart of the six towns. United by a passion for lo-fi acoustic folk and blues, these guys and girls came to my attention just before Christmas and I got word (on the grapevine of course) of great gig at the Old Brown Jug where they would be playing some of their eclectic songs for free, of all prices! So jumped a couple of buses and headed down there to check out the score.
Heritage, made up of Sian Matthews of Faux Feet, Ben Cornwell and Alex Liebeck, play a wonderful little acoustic songs that fit beautifully with Sian’s versatile vocals. Its delicate music that breezes in and out of your ears, something you could quite happily relax to in the evening or any other time of the day really. They opened the gig with this beautiful brand and with tracks like “Young but Old”, which gently plucks on guitar and double bass whilst Sian sings euphonious verses about the passage of time, definitely got in going on the right track.
Jim Mcshee is becoming a bit of a veteran of Stoke music scene, playing his unique take on country and blues. This evening he played material from his new EP “The Coffin Nail” and some of his personal favourites and covers of other obscure acoustic musicians. Like all good blues, the music is somehow upbeat set against lyrics that conjure up imagery of the Church, death and of course, being depressed. It’s the kind of music that you can tap your foot to whilst thinking “is that guy okay?” I particularly enjoyed his version of “The Fishing Blues” and one of his own “Bloody Knuckle Blues”; it’s got really a tight tapping rhythm, brilliant lyrics and a great chorus. I once said to people that white guys can’t sing the blues but it’s getting harder to say that the more I hear this guy play. Great set.
Lead singer of local band Clockwork Owls, Aaron Mobberley was up next with his solo project. I enjoy his mix of indie folk with glorious vocals which sounded so lush in the corner of the Old Brown Jug that night. Like all the acts on this line-up, it’s really good to see music of such a high quality on the doorstep. His track “Commitment”, title track of his EP, is a perfect example of this; its timing changes, rural lyrics and the way the rhythm plays with the vocals, and vice versa, is indicative of a really talented song writer. “Crayons” is another brilliant track, reminiscent that characteristic indie sound but the way he plays it and makes it his own transforms it into something pretty special. Look out for Aaron next time you looking for a gig to go to because it’s well worth checking him out live; I’m glad I made it down; another great set.
Cult Party is a real diamond in the rough (the rough being Stoke-on-Trent). However the barren de-industrialised landscape of Stoke produced such a gem is completely unknown to me but I’m glad it did. His unique little lo-fi ditties, played on a ukulele, electric and acoustic guitars and even a djembe, have some real leftfield lyrics about zombies, vampires, dimensional shifts and video games which all come together in either short bursts of oldie swing style tracks or longer alternative folk numbers that leave me speechless. This evening he was joined on the drums which added a little percussion to his performance which was nice to hear. His ukulele numbers like “Undead” and Zombie Song” were interspersed with his longer acoustic tracks like the brilliant “Hurricane Girl” and the slow, yearning “The Forth Dimension” which made his barely 20 mins set pass in moments and left wanting him to just play the entire thing again. Before this review devolves any further into me telling you how good his songs are, I’ll just say that this was an exceptionally good set and I enjoyed every minute of it.
Last up were Dressed Like Wolves from Teesside and unfortunately due to the time constraints of public transportation and human society working on a monetary system in which one must exchange labour for financial gain, I ended up leaving early and missing their performance, which is a shame because they make some fantastic lo-fi music. Check them out on MyFACE tm or some other internet platform; it’s definitely worth doing so. Same goes for all the bands on this lineup or better yet, go and see them live. It was a cracking gig and I hope there is more of them.