The Bonnevilles

Lurgan hasn’t given the world many world-class rock and roll acts.  It’s been a long wait but finally The Bonnevilles have arrived.  A punk-blues two-piece with more power than the National Grid, their three studio albums to date – “Good Suits and Fightin’ Boots”, “Folk Art & The Death Of Electric Jesus” and “Arrow Pierce My Heart” and the live album “Tape Saturation Overdrive” – combine scorching guitar with pounding, articulate drumming and lyrics which owe a nod to the big themes of blues.  Death, sex, violence, loneliness, madness, booze…

They put a lot of thought into the presentation of the music.  Their album artwork is elaborate and hints at the dark threads that run through their songs.

Album cover art for Folk Art And The Death Of Electric Jesus
Album cover art for Folk Art And The Death Of Electric Jesus
Bonnevilles gig poster, Tape Saturation Overdrive tour
Bonnevilles gig poster, Tape Saturation Overdrive tour

Well worth catching live, Andy (guitar, vocals) and Chris (drums) give each gig everything they’ve got.  Sweat guaranteed.  Blood and tears, thankfully not.  (Well, not onstage, anyway…)

Check out their website at http://thebonnevilles.co.uk

 

 

Sons Of The Desert

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, living in Camden Town, I spent almost every evening hanging out at dives like The Dublin Castle and The Engine Room.  The door price was rarely more than £3.  The bills were always a lottery.  And then one evening – blam! – I came across The Sons Of The Desert.

I’m not sure I knew what to make of them at first.  The music featured a huge variety of influences – Eastern European, old-timey Americana, Irish trad, jazz, cabaret.  Ewan Shiels, on mandolin and vocals, delivered his guttural, guttersnipe lyrics with a sneer.  Tracey Booth’s voice was clean and pure.  It was clear that these were musicians of rare quality.  When Ewan took his mandolin version of Purple Haze off into an extended trek through increasingly strange terra incognita, Joseph Doherty (fiddle, sax), Stephen Harrison (bass) and Johnny Nolan (guitar) were with him all the way.  No matter where he darted off to, he couldn’t shake them off.  Sudden key changes, tempo changes?  No problem.  Abrupt endings?  Yep!

Sons Of The Desert - early line-up featuring Tracey Booth, Ewan Shiels, Stephen Harrison, Joseph Doherty and Johnny Nolan
Sons Of The Desert – early line-up featuring Tracey Booth, Ewan Shiels, Stephen Harrison, Joseph Doherty and Johnny Nolan

They had a residency at the Elephant and Castle pub in – er – Elephant and Castle every Sunday for a time.  A free gig as a chaser to the Sunday afternoon “cure” and I rarely missed one of them.  They quickly laid claim  to the stage as their home turf and, among ardent fans, they took every opportunity to spice up their exotic mixture even further with musical digressions of every shade.

And then the sad news that, for various reasons, the band was leaving the UK.  Ewan and Tracey (now married), now live in France where they run a bar.  The music lives on.  Their band, The Shiels, have more than a trace of the old Sons Of The Desert spunk.  And, with a few new faces, including Ewan’s and Tracey’s daughter, Rubi Mae, The Sons Of The Desert concept continues…

See www.sonsofthedesert.fr and www.facebook.com/TheShielsBand/ for more info.

 

 

The Outcasts

I’ve seen and heard many bands since whose music commands more of my listening time.  But The Outcasts changed my life…

Derrytrasna community centre.  A spartan sort of a building.  A stage and a long, thin dancefloor with a row of seats either side.  Home to afternoon “guest teas” and Sunday night discos.   And one night in the late 1970s, home to the first of a number of appearances by Belfast’s The Outcasts.

It was shortly after they’d launched their debut album “Self Conscious Over You” and they were still sporting the look they modelled on that album’s cover – suedehead haircuts, biker jackets and combat trousers.

 

The Outcasts - Self Conscious Over You (Good Vibrations Records)
The Outcasts – Self Conscious Over You (Good Vibrations Records)

The music was fast, aggressive, accessible.  I’d heard a few punk tunes, of course, at the time.  Could probably have named a few bands.  But seeing a band up close!  Feeling the thud of the bass in the pit of my stomach! Sweating as we – instinctively – began slamming into one another at the foot of the stage!  I became an instant convert…  Next Saturday, I too was sporting an attempt at a suedehead haircut; I too was wearing combat trousers.  Shortly afterwards, I too was saving up for the obligatory biker jacket.

 

Me (left in obligatory biker jacket) and Sid Blaney, Derrytrasna, late 1970s
Me (left in obligatory biker jacket) and Sid Blaney, Derrytrasna, late 1970s

Quickly I began to get sucked into the whole punk scene.  It left me with an attitude that has shaped my view of the world ever since.  Even now, in my 50s, I can still feel that teenage energy bubble up from time to time.  My tastes may have broadened a little but I’m very aware of their source.  A weeknight in Derrytrasna, a few smuggled tins of Tennents, a band from Belfast…

So it’s sad as I sit here, typing, to think that of the four original members of The Outcasts, two are now dead.  Colin, the drummer, died in a motorbike accident shortly after I saw them play for the first time.  And Getty, guitarist, passed away just a few days ago.  We get older, time passes, people die.  Some we forget.  Others will live on in our memories; forever young, on a stage in Derrytrasna, playing raucous life-changing music…

The Black Diamond Heavies

After the original third founding member, Mark “Porkchop” Holder left the band, keyboardist and vocalist James Leg and drummer Van Campbell continued as a two-piece of devastating power.  Combining blues, soul, raw and frenetic punk energy with musical virtuosity and a deep knowledge of blues, gospel and rock and roll in all its various forms, they released three superb albums on the Alive label: Every Damn Time, A Touch Of Someone Else’s Class (a collection of covers) and Alive As Fuck! (recorded at the Masonic Hall in Covington, Kentucky).

Black Diamond Heavies - Alive As Fuck album cover
Black Diamond Heavies – Alive As Fuck album cover

Check out the band’s page at the Alive Records website here http://www.alive-records.com/artist/black-diamond-heavies/

Here’s a live version of their “Leave It In The Road”, recorded in Sydney in December 2008.  Cracking!