Brix & The Extricated The Duchess November 24, 2015
Brix Smith was an integral member of The Fall, between 1983 and 1989, then again, on-and-off, betwixt 1993 and 1998. Well, she was married to main man vocalist, poet and Svengali auteur Mark E. Smith. This period of the Manchester combo's output featured some of their most accessible material, unavoidably influenced by American garage rock, Brix's melodic grit sprinkled across Mark E.'s caustic verbal spew. Now, she's known as Brix Smith-Start, adding the name of her post-MES husband, fashion entrepreneur Philip Start. A surprise return to the world of The Fall was triggered by a connection made with bassist Steve Hanley (time done: 1979- 1998), on the publication eve for his autobiographical book Big Midweek: Life Inside The Fall. Together, they cooked up the grand wheeze of getting together a group of ex-Fall members to re-visit the classic songbook. This is a particularly worthwhile endeavour, as MES is notoriously opposed to backward-looking renditions of any songs that are older than 18 months, unless they are amongst his characteristically well-chosen cover versions.
So, once they formed The Extricated (named after MES's 1990 post-divorce album, Extricate), this crew have been airing songs that are two or three decades old, played by some old hands who were critical elements in their original recording. Hanley roped in his brother Paul, who drummed for The Fall between 1980 and 1984, and the crew was completed by guitarists Jason Brown and Steve Trafford, the latter on Fall-board between 2004 and 2006.
At The Duchess, "US 80s-90s" provided an early high point, grinding anthemically, Brix solving the potential problem of matching the MES delivery by side-stepping his phrasing and tone, choosing a completely different tack. She was struggling with some of the more melodic attempts, but mostly took a convincing detour, surmounting what could have been a massive obstacle.The old, deliberate murking of lines turned into a more clearly enunciated rock traditionalism, ditching mimicry and gaining clarity of diction, at least when laid beside that of MES. So, we had a diluted style, but with some newly-discernible couplets.
Aping The Fall's choice choosing of cover song material, The Extricated elected to offer "Ball Of Confusion" (The Temptations), which doesn't appear to have ever been tackled by MES and company. As Brix observed, its words remain apt today, and this is surely a number that might have been considered for Fall reproduction in the past. Ramming back into more typical selections, Hanley shone brightly during "Lay Of The Land," his bass line combining persistent doggedness and nimble fingering, great drive with great dexterity. Brother Paul was also revealing himself as a fine falsetto vocal specialist, a strong element in several of the set's highlights. Of course, he was also locking tight with Steve Hanley, forming a meaty rhythm attack. The guitars were more of a general wall, without any fancy parts, just set for prime riffage, with Brix sometimes downing her axe to concentrate on the vocals. Unexpectedly, though, the mightiest songs of the evening were from the pre- Brix early 1980s, stemming from the Hanley brothers (all of the Extricated repertoire consists of songs co-written by its members), with "Totally Wired" and "Hip Priest" developing a taut, nervy, twisted tension.
Jim Boyes & Belinda O'Hooley The Black Swan November 26, 2015
This was a different kind of booking for The Black Swan Folk Club, involving a multi-media presentation, if only on a fairly basic level. This wasn't a fast-flicking torrent of images, tightly snapped to a brisk song-flow. The presentation was more relaxed, still with musical material at its heart, but with a slow clicking of text and images to accompany the tunes. Scarborough singer Jim Boyes released Sensations Of A Wound as an album, beginning live performances towards the end of 2013. He's the Boyes in Coope, Boyes & Simpson, the renowned a capella trio, but this is a very personal project, casting a gaze back at the First World War experiences of his grandfather, Robert 'Croppie' Boyes. Typically for many war-zone survivors, Croppie didn't often articulate his doubtless grim memories, but Boyes unearthed some personal writings from 1933, and was inspired to pen a set of songs, to be heard together as part of a themed collection.
Boyes was joined on this project by keyboardist Belinda O'Hooley, her sound-settings firmly in acoustic piano mode, her backing deliberately skirting around in the background, coming to the fore as a song built, receding further whilst Boyes spun out his tale. The segues between speech and songs were subtly handled, the experience flowing very organically. Surely the opening "Down Upon The Dugout Floor" must be one of the best, most compulsively gripping folk songs penned in recent years, and Boyes knows this, as he reprised the number later on in the set.
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