Gren Bartley – Magnificent Creatures
I remember first hearing Gren Bartley when he was doing a support slot for the excellent Kirsty McGee and Mat Martin at the Musician in Leicester easily 6 years or more ago. I was mightily impressed and have followed his musical adventures since that time. 2016 heralded a particularly superb release from Gren with his album Magnificent Creatures released on the Cumbria based Fellside label. I loved it’s predecessor Winter Fires and this album for me is, if anything even finer than that wonderful release.
What can you expect? Superb songwriting matched by accomplished vocals, delicious harmonies and a gorgeous acoustic backdrop. There’s not a track that doesn’t appeal but standouts for me are Tall Wooden Walls, Portland, Home Soon and Strange Times. Do yourself a favour and grab yourself a copy.
The Westies – Six on the out
Michael McDermott is a very skilled singer songwriter and has an excellent solo album out, Willow Springs, this year too. Yet the first of the releases involving him that hit my musical radar was the Six on the out album released as The Westies, his project with the equally ace Heather Horton. There are traces of Springsteen here, superb songwriting and songs that draw your in, real story songs. My current favourite, a song I’ve used to open the Quiet Revolution in the past, is The gang’s all here. That is though just one of many gems all of which have an instant appeal.
None other than Stephen King the author has said “Michael’s music, like Springsteen’s and Van Morrison’s, helped me to find a part of myself that wasn’t lost, as I had feared, but only misplaced. That’s why we love the ones who are really good at it, I think: because they give us back ourselves, all dusted and shined up, and they do it with a smile…Michael McDermott is one of the best songwriters in the world and possibly the greatest undiscovered rock ‘n’ roll talent of the last 20 years.”
So take my and Stephen King’s word for it. Michael McDermott as part of The Westies and solo is someone you really should make some time to discover.
Katy Rose Bennett -Songs of the River Rea
Katy Rose Bennett’s album was a total new discovery for me this year. Katy was born and grew up in Oxfordshire but has made the city of Birmingham her home for the last ten years. Her influences are pretty impressive, Nick Drake and Gillian Welch, amongst others. In many ways it feels I should have stumbled upon Katy’s music way before her fourth album, particularly as her brothers Robin and Joe Bennett of the wonderful Dreaming Spires are a long-time favourite of mine with their songs having often appeared on Quiet Revolution playlists. Although I am late to the party, I’m glad I’ve now heard Katy’s music.
Cold November Day and the heartbreakingly beautiful Jack and Ivy are just two fine examples of Katy’s talent. In fact writing this I realise I’ve not played anywhere near enough of the album on the show so here’s an online memo to myself to rectify that at the soonest opportunity.