All The Gear - Part One: The equipment that made Rock 'n' Roll

All the gear: The equipment that made Rock 'n' Roll

A two-part review of the ‘gear' that is the sound of Rock 'n' Roll

Take a look at a photo of the Rolling Stones, the Ramones, The Bob Marley and the Wailers in performance or Oasis, Arctic Monkeys and the Foo Fighters or any big name act and on stage from the 1960s to the modern day and you'll see a remarkable similarity in the equipment that fills that stage.

Behind the suave strutting confidence, just out of the limelight, these instruments, amplifiers, speaker cabinets and all kinds of ‘tricks and whistles' are as much a part of Rock 'n' Roll as Doc Martens boots and ripped jeans and Jack Daniels. They are the sound of Rock 'n' Roll. Loaded in and out of trucks and venues by Lemmys' famed ‘Road Crew' these machines arrive on casters in industrial looking flight-cases and dominate the stage, appearing as mountains in a darkened landscape, noise is their business and business is good.

Most of this wonderful noise derives from just a handful of people. These people had little idea at the time of the global effect their innovations would have. Here's a look at a few of those people and their legacies.

Dick Denney: The Vox AC30

Dick Denney was a keen guitar player and electrical engineer. He began working for Jennings Musical Industries a company based in Dartford in the English county of Kent named in 1957. As an electric guitar player, Denney was acutely aware of what guitar players wanted from an amplifier and so designed and built the simply gorgeous Vox AC15. However by 1959 players wanted more volume, more ‘loud', more noise so Mr. Denney doubled up and created the iconic Vox AC30. The Beatles, Queen and U2 all have that signature AC30 sound, much copied, but never bettered.

Jim Marshall: The Marshall Stack

In the early 1960s, Jim Marshall owned a music shop in West London from which he taught drums, one notable pupil being Mitch Mitchell later of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. A number of his guitar playing customers, including the then very young Pete Townshend and Ritchie Blackmore, complained that they couldn't get loud enough with there ‘small' 30watt amplifiers and wanted more depth to the sound. Mr.Marshall saw this as an opportunity and provided them with the daunting 6 foot 2 inch, 100-watt rock-monster that is the ‘Marshall Stack'. From that point onwards Jim Marshall was known affectionately as ‘The father of loud'. If you ever have the chance to stand a couple of yards in front of a full Marshall stack and hear a power- chord rung through its screaming hot valves, do it. It is like nothing on earth, literally knee-trembling, the clothes quivering around your body.

Les Paul: The Gibson Les Paul

Les Paul was a US Jazz guitar player of repute, playing sessions and appearing on big hits of the day. He was also a guitar builder, recording innovator and inventor. In 1952 the Gibson guitar company first offered for sale the ‘Les Paul' an innovative solid body electric guitar. Initially, it wasn't greatly received by the guitar buying public but over time the high output and huge sustain caught the imagination of rock and blues guitar players. The Les Paul guitar IS the sound of Led Zeppelin, Santana and Gary Moore.

Leo Fender: Telecaster, Precision bass, Fender Twin etc.

Over any of the people listed unassuming Californian Leo Fender is responsible for greater innovation and has had a stronger influence over the sound of Rock ‘n' Roll. In 1950 the Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company introduced the ‘Telecaster' the first mass-produced, component part Electric guitar. It was followed in1954 by the legendary ‘Stratocaster'. However, it is with the 1951 introduction of the ‘Precision Bass Guitar' or ‘P-bass' that Leo Fender really pushed the boundary. He not only made a reliable and accurate instrument but also completely changed the course of music. Now the bass could be heard clearly amongst drums, pianos and guitars without feedback. Within a few years, the Double bass had been more or less forgotten in Rock 'n' Roll music and replaced by its solid-body cousin.

The company simply termed ‘Fender' are also responsible for a couple of legendary amplifiers. The Fender Bassman, originally designed as the name suggests for bass guitar, had greater success as an amplifier for guitar players. Early rock 'n' roll heroes like Eddie Cochran and Buddy Holly thrived on the sound these beasts throw out. According to myth the big, crispy and unrelentingly loud Bassman was used as a model for both Vox and Marshall amplifiers, but no-one can be quite sure.
Then there is the ever dependable workhorse that is the Fender Twin, with it's 60 or 100-watt output through glowing valves and twin 12-inch speakers it is a standard by which all other guitar amps are judged. He was a clever fellow that Leo Fender.

Ampeg SVT: Keeping the bass in its place

In 1969 Bill Hughes of the Ampeg company introduced the fabulously loud 300-watt Ampeg SVT bass guitar amplifier. Its ‘Super valve Technology' insured a big warm tone, superior to anything available at the time. On the U2 ‘Zoo' world tour in 1993 several Ampeg SVTs were employed under the stage to add more boom, during the Buenos Aires show near seismic levels of activity were registered on the Richter scale from 50 miles away. Now, that is the power of rock 'n' roll.

In the next instalment, we'll cover Drums and Keyboards and have a look at some legendary vocal microphones at the centre of every Rock 'n' Roll stage.

Written by: R. Vee - 2018


Instruments and Guitar players in this article:

Motorhead: ‘We are the Road Crew':

Dick Denney and the story of the AC30:

Jim Marshall in interview:

The Fender story:

A History of The Ampeg Bass Amp Company:

 


History Of The Guitar - 2SeasSessions

The Guitar: A potted history of the worlds' most accessible instrument

The Guitar: A potted history of the worlds' most accessible instrument

Guitar Stores. Where dreams begin.

In any given town of a fair size pretty much anywhere in the world you'll find a store either dedicated to or at least proudly displaying guitars. Acoustic, Electric, and Classical guitars. guitars with a pedigree, guitars without. Guitars with digital interfaces, guitars of five hundred-year-old technology. Six strings, a neck and a body in a vast array of manifestations.

In every one of those stores will be a star-y eyed kid dreaming of jamming out on all those guitars hanging in the window. So it has been and so it will always be.

The guitar through its portability, immediacy and sheer usability has more than any other instrument crossed borders, frontiers and times.

A little bit of history…

There are references to stringed instruments in ancient texts from across the world, some strummed and plucked some bowed, the Lute, Sitar and Harp amongst many others. But here we're interested solely in an instrument loosely defined as a guitar.

Artworks from the European Renaissance period (14th-17th century) show a definite figure-8 shaped plucked instrument with several courses of strings. Some or all of which are doubled like a mandolin or a modern day 12-string guitar. A ‘Guitarra Latina' is referenced in court literature of the time. There are still in existence in European museums and conservatories examples of guitars from the 14th and 15th centuries including two surviving examples built by the world renowned instrument builder Antonio Stradivari, perhaps more famous for ‘Stradivarius' Violins.

Over time the instrument evolved. Six strings became the norm usually in an E / A / D / G / B / E or ‘Spanish' tuning. The body shape becomes bigger and wider with a more pronounced bout to the figure-8 shape. The strings themselves change from gut to wound steel. By the 19th century, its usage has become less courtly and more ‘of the folk'.

In the melting pot of early US American history, the guitar takes on a vital role and evolves quickly into a loud, brash rhythmic instrument used in small groups or solo as an accompaniment to voice.

The need for the instrument to be heard among much louder brass and percussion instruments led to some truly unique innovation. Resophonic guitars originated by Slovak-American immigrants the Dopyera brothers were fitted with resonating cones that would mechanically amplify the raw acoustic sound. Maccaferri guitars, designed by Italian guitarist and instrument builder Mario Maccaferri and favoured by Jazz players like Django Reinhardt were fitted with internal sound-boxes to clarify and amplify the sound further.

All these technical advances in acoustic volume were, of course, made mute with the invention of electrical amplification. From the early 1930s pick ups were fitted to guitars enabling them to be plugged into an amplifier this facilitated the guitars' next evolution into the electric guitar.

It was Californian Leo Fender who in 1950 presented to the world the first mass-produced solid-body electric guitar named ‘Broadcaster'. Other makers had produced electric guitars before but none with the accessibility and playability. Its solid body more or less cancelled out the feedback problems associated with previous hollow body designs. Guitar players could now get louder and keep to control of the feedback. Just in time for Rock'n'Roll.

"A Guitar you say boy, what's that then?"

Read through an interview with any the famous British guitar players of the 1960s and 70s and sooner or later the inevitable question of early influences arises. Keith Richards, Brian May, 2 Seas artist Wizz Jones Eric Clapton, and George Harrison will all offer one, two or all three of the following names. Bert Weedon. Lonny Donnegan. Davey Graham.

In 1932 in East Ham, London 12-year-old Bert Weedon began learning classical guitar. He is quoted as saying that "I took my guitar with me on the bus and people would ask what it was, nobody had seen a guitar, let alone heard one". Weedon had a hit in 1959 with ‘Guitar Boogie Shuffle' and again in 1960 with 'Apache' but his influence as a guitar player is more to do with his 'Play-in-a-day' series of self-tutorial books. It seems an entire generation of guitar players including all those listed above learnt to play the 'Play-in-a-day' way.

"The King of Skiffle" Lonnie Donegan grew up in the same East Ham area of London as Bert Weedon. 11 years apart in age, they frequented the same streets. It is not known if they ever met pre-fame and fortune.

However, Lonnie did have a similar if less orthodox effect on the same generation of musicians.

At the time the only guitar players in the public eye were the aforementioned cabaret friendly Mr.Weedon and concert guitarists like Andres Segovia with seemingly unobtainable levels of skill. In 1956 Lonnie Donegan burst on to the young baby-boomer scene with a simple but powerful concoction of hard-strummed 3 chord acoustic guitar, washboard percussion and T-chest Bass with earthy songs borrowed from American folk players Leadbelly and Woodie Guthrie. Overnight anyone could be in a band and everyone who later became a British music star was. The day John Lennon and Paul McCartney met, John was playing in his Lonnie Donegan inspired Skiffle band ‘The Quarrymen'.

Born in 1940 in Leicestershire England Davey Graham began to play guitar at the age of 12. He went on to inspire a wealth of folk guitar players who went to greater things. John Renbourne of the seminal British folk band Pentangle is quoted as saying that "Davey just had this finger style that we all wanted, he started it". His most famous composition ‘Anji' has become something of a rite of passage for any fingerstyle acoustic guitar player with artists as diverse as Bert Jansch, Simon and Garfunkel and Chicken Shack covering the song.

'Its just a fad'

In this early 21st century the guitar can seem ever-present, it is ubiquitous with modern everyday culture. It appears in TV adverts to suggest an air of cool. Every kid in tight jeans and beaten Converse boots has a guitar slung over the shoulder. In early 1962 Decca Records executive Dick Rowe famously told Beatles manager Brian Epstein "Guitar groups are on their way our Mr.Epstein." Not yet they're not Mr.Rowe, not quite yet.

 

Written by: R. Vee - 2018


Instruments and Guitar players in this article:

Rolf Lislevand plays A.Stradivari Sabionari, 1679 guitar:

National NRP Steel Tricone - Delta Blues In Open G:

Selmer #607 - The Selmer Maccaferri guitar:

Django Reinhardt - Three-Fingered Lightning:

1951 Fender Broadcaster:

Wizz Jones - 2Seas Session #2 - Full Set:

Bert Weedon - Mr PLAY IN A DAY:

Andres Segovia - Prelude1 Villa-Lobos:

Lonnie Donegan - Rock Island Line (Live) 15/6/1961:

Davey Graham - she moved through the fair:

Bert Jansch - Angie:

Leadbelly - Pick a bale of cotton:

Woodie Guthrie - That'll be the death of me:

The Quarrymen - Puttin' on the Style:


The Music Industry: What happens now all the money has gone?

The Music Industry: What happens now all the money has gone?

Way, way back, before music could be recorded and stored and sold on a plastic disc, people would buy sheet music. An A4 pamphlet contained within the ‘charts' or music manuscript to the latest tune or dance to be interpreted through the virtuosity or lack there-of by whom-ever sat at the piano and that was it. No records, no downloads. Nada.

Way back then, the only real money in music was in the ticket price.
A musician or singer had to rely solely on performance fees for an income. The PRS (performers rights society) which collects and distributes royalties in the UK, wasn't established until 1914. However, there was a fully functioning music business with the full complement of managers and agents and bookers all of whom made a living and there were music stars.

There were even big music stars who made comparatively big money.
Then the game changed. Recorded music playing machines ‘Phonographs' became popular, and increasingly affordable, the public could now buy that song and hear it by that singer, and they did ravenously.

Case in point: Singer /Comedian George Formby Snr. (Father of British wartime Singer/Comedian and famed Ukelele-Banjo player of the same name.) As an established name, Formby was earning £35 a week in 1905 performing to huge crowds in Theatres across the UK. One could say at the top of his game. In 1907 He signed one of the first recording contracts. In the following 5 years, his wages exploded and he negotiated a new contract reportedly worth in excess of £300 annually. All of a sudden there was real money to be made.

"I'm in plastics!"

In the movie ‘Telstar', the biopic of the crazed genius of the studio Joe Meek, much is made of the real-life character Major Wilfred Banks.

"I'm in plastics!" The Major confidently announces standing proud in his industrious plastics factory as he imposes a manufacturing deal on the ill-fated pop producer.

Held in that unimpressive trio of words is the guts of the issue. At its heart, if it has one, the music industry is and always has been entirely and exclusively about shifting stock. Boxes and boxes of stock. Be it plastic toys, ballpoint pens or records, its stock and it needs shifting.

During the peak years of record buying, let's say 1959-1999 there were often occasions where records couldn't be printed quickly enough to meet demand. That demand translated to a lot of money. Money for artist development, money for lavish studios, money as they say for nothin'.

A casual Google of the words ‘Fairmont Hotel Queen Party' and we begin to get an idea of the amounts of cash available to ‘grease the wheels' or in modern parlance ‘network' in the music industry of the 1970s and 80s. All of that came from shiny black plastic discs.

As long as those shiny black plastic discs sold the people who financed the whole thing were happy. Stories of excess were ‘good for the image' and good for sales. Companies took risks on new artists, allowed them to develop.

Then the Game changed again

The compact disc didn't have a great effect on sales, merely changing the stock from black plastic to silver plastic disc. But digital downloads did. Over a short number of years downloads, whether pirate, legal or from pay-monthly sites utterly decimated physical sales across the board. The Fairmont party was over.

Case in point: Skip McDonald. Skips career saw him come from Hip-Hops legendary ‘Sugar Hill gang' house-band to signing to Real World records. At Real World, he was a respected musician, given time and funding to pursue his particular sound over three spectacular albums. Then came downloads, the accountants took over at Real World. Skip was unceremoniously dumped alongside other acts.

Even the worlds most famous artist began seeking backing outside of the decaying big record companies. Madonna signed a deal with Live Nation an international live production and event company. Michael Jackson travelled to the Middle East to Bahrain and hence came 2Seas Studio.

The big record companies have now retreated into an ever-narrowing ‘make what we know sells' mindset and won't even dip their toe in the water as far as new ventures are concerned. They are strictly interested in that narrow wave-band somewhere between Coldplay and Katy Perry. For a while, in 2017 as many 1 in 3 songs played on a London commercial radio station was an Ed Sheeran Track.

And the good news is?

This means of course that there are now thousands of independent artists out there un-touched by record companies, who in this modern internet age can reach a global audience bored of the bland narrow wave-band record company fare. An increasing amount of these artists are full-time professionals, working hard as independent musicians. In an entirely different world to Coldplay, Perry and Sheeran.

"Its art, it shouldn't be about the money anyway" said 2 Seas Session artist KING SIZE SLIM. "If I were in it for the money or even for the fame, I'd do better robbing a bank"

The truth is the money hasn't gone. It's just not in hands of the Music Industry, instead, it is in the hands of those thousands of independent artists across the globe.

In terms of the manufacture of physical C.D's and records. ‘Short runs' or those of less than 1000 copies now far out-way longer print runs in the 10s of thousands. Who orders short runs? Independent artists do. There is the good news.

Written by: R. Vee - 2018


Artists and music referenced in this article:

George Formby - "Standing on the corner of the street':


"Telstar" - Movie Trailer:


Skip 'Little Axe' McDonald - "Killing Floor":


Madonna - Live acoustic:


Micheal Jackson - 'Who Is It' Acapella:


King Size Slim -  Full Set @ 2SeasSessions:


2SeasSession #9 - Artist Profile - The Rising Souls

Acoustic roots band 'The Rising Souls'. Rise indeed.

They have captivated audiences far and wide. Performing shows across their native Scotland including a lauded performance at the internationally renowned Edinburgh Festival as well as shows south of the Scottish border across Southern England and London.

More recently the band have travelled to Eastern Europe to bring their particular brand of Acoustic Blue-eyed-soul meets stomping blues to new audiences. Prague Loves The Rising Souls!

What is clear just from watching these guys on 'net videos is that they sincerely love what they do, however seeing them do their thing live takes it all to another level. Passionate delivery and musical prowess with an On-stage confidence backed by keen rehearsal allows the band to improvise live around powerful Stompin' blues and boogie rhythms and themes. Their enjoyment in their art is tangible and infectious.

 

Many miles from Scotland to the Desert…

It was the first time visiting the Middle East for David (Vocal), Reese (Drums and Vocal), Roy 'Kelso' (Bass Guitar and Vocal ) and Stevie (Guitar and Vocal) arriving after a 6 hour flight from the UK for a number of days to record an exclusive set for 2 Seas Sessions on the Island Kingdom of Bahrain.

This was an unusual session for the band,they were a man down as one of the regular band couldn't make the session and so they elected to perform in a 'broken down' style, using much less in the way of backline, drums and equipment than in their usual setting. The 2seas in-house crew, all seasoned professionals, were struck not only with the beautifully sweet harmony vocals from the band and their general tightness but also their uncanny ability to 'get it' in one-take. Leaving much more time for tea!

This smart, young, good looking and talented gang of young men have a bright future ahead of them. It was an absolute pleasure to have them visit us at the 2Seas Studio.

It seems they enjoyed their visit. All concerned had a great time. Four, not only talented, but also hilarious fellas were an absolute pleasure to work with. The results of the 2SeasSession speak for themselves.

 

 

PDF Download of this article


Reggae and the British Empire - 2SeasSessions Blog

Reggae and the British Empire

Reggae and the British Empire

In the mythical rulebook of Rock'n'Roll, the UK has always been the place to break an act to give access to the European markets and often the rest of the World. This is particularly true with 'foreign' artists or music genres.

The same is true for Jamaican music, initially imported and sold as 'Jamaican Blues' for dancing to at Soho Blues Parties. Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae all came from one small Island with a total national population of around three million, little more than the population of south London, to the shores of a much larger island five thousand miles across the Atlantic Ocean.

There are many reasons Chris Blackwell of Island Records arranged for, what turned out to be the best selling live record of all time, to be recorded at The Lyceum. (Bob Marley and the Wailers Live at The Lyceum) Chiefly the venue was in London, which in 1975 was the epicenter of Reggae, outside of Kingston JA, and key to the world. Reggae in its many forms has used this time honoured step to global success.

Since 1948 subjects of the Queen of the United Kingdom and of the British Empire (re-branded in 1949 'Commonwealth') had been relocating from the West Indies to the 'Mother Country' Great Britain, bringing with them music and culture and food alien to the native British. As is well documented the process was not a peaceful or easy one. Old hatreds and new fears combined, whipped up by politicians and public alike.

One thing however that did not fail to cross the drawn boundaries was music. Good music always wins.

From around this point Reggae or Ska as it was still known, became a two-way street. Jamaican Musicians, the likes of Prince Buster and Desmond Dekker and Rico Rodriguez would visit and live in London and play their music to not only the West Indian community but increasingly and eventually predominantly white working-class audiences. The British kids would dance and buy the records and the Jamaican musicians would reply with 'Scene specific' songs like Symarips 'Skinhead Moonstomp', an anthem for the burgeoning early Skinhead Reggae scene.

By the late 1960s, there was a West Indian population in London large enough to support a thriving music business, with record shops and venues and working musicians and, peculiar to Jamaican culture, Sound Systems in the Capital and in Cities across the UK. It hadn't taken long for post-war British kids, now known as baby-boomers, to turn on to the exciting dance rhythms as a counterpoint of the exotic in the backdrop of the still bomb-damaged Britain. Importantly it sold in bucket loads. Trojan Records Reggae compilation series entitled 'Tighten Up' consistently sold so well that the BBA charts authority were 'forced' to change the rules to disqualify all compilation albums from the charts.

It's truthful to say that in the 1970s Reggae's influence began to change the shape of Britain both culturally and, by proxy, politically. By 1978 an entirely British style evolved out of the Midlands towns of Coventry and Birmingham and further south in London. Two-tone by definition was mixed race. Inner city Black and White kids appropriating the Ska Rhythms and style of the West Indian immigrants of 15 years before, and representing it with an impetuous and hard edge akin to the punk they were also listening to.

Many of the bands that spearheaded the Two-Tone movement were dismissed at the time as mere revivalists but time has shown their true impact both musically and in a social context. The Specials, The Selecter and The Beat were all writing socially conscious songs which have entered the UK national psyche as reference points to those turbulent times.

Despite Anglo-fixation the British obsession with purely Jamaican music has never ceased with many UK club-nights and Sound Systems like Brighton's Roots Garden and Jah Shakka Sound System playing the latest imported J.A cuts alongside home-grown JA sounds.

There are also the various strains of native British music that are entirely reliant upon Reggae but their roots but are grounded very much in the UK. Definite Reggae influence can be heard in British originated Jungle spearheaded by artists like Congo Natty. Also Drum'n'Bass and more recently Grime. All the ingredients are there, rhythm led, heavy on the bass with a healthy disdain for the status quo delivered with the confidence of conscience.

Written by: R. Vee - 2018


Bob Marley and the Wailers Live in London: 


Prince Buster Ska in London:


The Specials - 'Ghost Town’:


The Selecter - 'Too Much pressure’:


The Beat  - ‘ Stand down Margaret’:


Congo Natty - ‘Police in Helicopter’:


History of The Blues

Isn’t Blues just old guys whining about bad whiskey and dead dogs?

The dictionary definition of blues is as follows:  A) a state of depression: "he had a bad case of the blues." or more musically: B) type of folksong that originated among Black Americans at the beginning of the 20th century; has a melancholy sound from repeated use of blue notes.

It seems a little too easy to define the entire blues genre as emanating from 'repeated use of blue notes' but essentially it is a true statement. What is arguable however is its true origins being in the United States of America.

A quick disclaimer... Clearly the socio-economic factors at play in the enforced melting pot that was the Mississippi Delta at the turn of the 19th century played an all-to-consuming role in it becoming 'the birth-place of the blues'. That much is incontestable and a different discussion. The weight of the argument comes in the origin of those who peopled that peculiar time and place. From every corner of the world they brought with them musical knowledge and understanding along with their instrumentation. Jigs and Reels, Shanties and Ballads, Rhythms and Ragas, Rhymes and Dances.

A cursory rummage through youtube is all that is needed to find contemporary evidence on the international and inter-continental origins of blues music. In Africa Ali Fraka Toure, in Asia Chapey Kong Nay and in Europe (2Seas Session Artist) King Size Slim all demonstrate direct and local, pre-delta blues influence into their work and yet somehow they are all in the same sonic ballpark as American blues-man John Lee Hooker. Closer to home, Bahraini Traditional Music as played around Bab al Bahrain has all the ingredients of the call and answer style of sung field hollas' combined with the mesmerising grooves similar to that of American Desert Blues. Four continents one common sound.

A look at the instrumentation used in 'trad' blues supports the argument for a larger origin than just a 4000 square mile floodplain in the southern states of America. Guitars, by far the most popular 'blues' instrument, the genealogy of which can be traced to India via Spain and Portugal. Harmonica or 'Blues Harp' a German instrument made and tuned to emulate popular European brass band music a tuning which doubtless shaped the sound of blues, limiting the player, unless seriously proficient, to only the pentatonic or 'blues' scale. Particular kinds of early blues use other European instrumentation and scale structure such as 'Fife and Drum'. Both instruments taken directly from the military marching yard. The Banjo, reportedly from the West African Kimbindu word 'Mbanza' popular in early blues and country leaning styles, can be traced to both African and West Indian instruments.

It could be ventured that blues music is in fact pure human music, inert in every human being until awakened. A common sound and feeling that somehow allows the creator as well those listening to rationalise and process and hopefully exorcise those 'melancholic' emotions. Changed by local culture and language but still with a central common Human core.

This fits well with the idea that Blues is the beginning from which all else follows. Certainly, as is well documented, Jazz comes from early American Blues, then Rhythm and Blues and Rock n' Roll and so on.

Regardless of contestable and contentious claims of origin. It seems that 'The Blues' is now a broad church. The UK, which has since the early 1960s had something of an on-going love affair with imported American Blues music has since those days had a vibrant and home-grown Blues scene. Currently dominated by acts well inside the borders of Rock, there are many dedicated annual festivals and a national British Blues Awards with prizes given over several categories. The UK is not alone in its fascination with 'The Blues', Europe, Australia, Canada and South America also have independent and very healthy Blues scenes. 

This music that has evolved over the last 100 or so years from a disparate clash of culture, a mix of instrumentation and styles filtered through Road-Houses, Juke-Joints and Barn-Parties across the politically repressed Southern States of the USA and, it could be cynically said, has morphed into a well fed business of wealthy men playing slick solos in sharp suits at Londons Royal Albert Hall.

That would be to discount all that is good and natural about Blues Music. Its always been there, always on the outside, sometimes allowed in to perform but always on a temporary license. It’ll keep evolving and moving on and confounding purist fans. 

In answer to the head question "Isn’t Blues just old guys whining about bad whiskey and dead dogs?" Well, yes in part it is, but we have all drunk that bad Whiskey even if we haven't yet lost a dog.

Written by: R. Vee - 2018


Artists and music referenced above:

Ali Farka Toure:


Chapey Kong Nay:


King Size Slim:


John Lee Hooker:


Bahraini Trad. Music:


Fife and Drum Blues:


2SeasSessions - Acoustic Sessions Coming Soon - Mo Zowayed

Mo Zowayed 2Seas Session - Coming Very Soon!

We are super excited to announce the imminent arrival of a local talent in the shape of Mo Zowayed. Mo will be joining us for one of our Acoustic Live 2SeasSessions.

Here is a little info on Mo to keep you going until we are able to share his fabulous sounds with you.


Mo Zowayed is a Bahraini indie folk singer and songwriter.

Combining vocal hooks with guitar-driven melodies, Mo creates a soulful, upbeat sound with cracking, memorable choruses reminiscent of The Lumineers and Mumford and Sons, whilst his lyrics evoke feelings of wanderlust and draw heavily on transient experiences. The music is brought to life by talented, highly experienced musicians - some of whom have recorded for and toured with First Aid Kit, Angus & Julia Stone and Hurts.

Mo Zowayed and his band have toured the USA, which was sponsored by Red Bull and have opened for major headliners including The Tedeschi Trucks Band. In early 2017, Mo was one of the headline acts at Bahrain’s pre-eminent musical event, The Spring of Culture, sharing the stage with artists such as Tom Jones and UB40.

Having been a successful support act for Jools Holland on his 2016 tour, Mo Zowayed again opened for Jools in November 2017 at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

As of January 2018, Mo has wrapped up studio sessions for his second EP with a renowned production team who has worked with both Amy Winehouse and Michael Jackson. The EP is expected to be released later this year.




2SeasSession #8 - Artist Profile - Msaki

Msaki is a singer-songwriter from East London in South Africa, best known for her soulful renditions of African themed folk music.

Having spent the most of her youth in East London and the surrounding regions, Msaki has come far from humble beginnings and a long way on the International music scene.

From England to Sweden and then North Carolina in the United States, this charming musician has performed in a variety of settings not to mention an incredible number of festivals in her native land. These rather prestigious festivals include many of the best-known events in South Africa such as the BMF National Annual AGM in Johannesburg and Buyelekhaya Pan African Festival.

Msaki is signed to One Shushu Day Artistry, her own label, yet she has shared the stage with an endless lineup of talented musicians such as Vusi Mahlasela, Angelique Kidjo, and Pops Mohammad. Surrounding her stage with equally gifted musicians, Msaki refers to her band as the Golden Circle, and while a harp was her only companion during the 2SeasSessions, it should be noted how this eclectic mix is often the highlight of her live performances. In many ways, Msaki is a powerful force on the music scene in South Africa but then the same can be said for anywhere else in the world, as we would soon find out at 2SeasSessions.

Early days and the late starter

As already mentioned, Msaki hails from East London, South Africa and unsurprisingly, she was born into a very musical family. While her grandfather was a rather famous songwriter from his time, Msaki attributes much of her influence and success to her father who was responsible for numerous choirs in his lifetime. Msaki studied Visual Art and Design in East London before moving to Grahamstown where she formed her first band while furthering her studies in Visual Art.

Incredibly, it was only during her time at Leeds University in England (2010) when Msaki taught herself the guitar. For many musicians this might seem like a very late time to start but for Msaki, this was a defining moment in here music career. The guitar added another string to her bow and it was at this point when the singer-songwriter was enabled to create her own music whenever a potential song or particular melody presented itself.

Slowly, her love of music from a young age would see Msaki progress from being a musician to a recording artist with two dance songs reaching the top of the local charts in South Africa. Incredibly, these songs continued to rise in popularity and would be the foundation which saw the Golden Circle receive a standing ovation at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in 2016, as well as an award at Cape Town Fringe in that same year.

Msaki at 2SeasSessions

However, the very nature of our stripped back acoustic sessions in 2SeasSessions seemed to emphasize the fact that Msaki is not one to seek the limelight. Instead, it is the soulful voice and stories within her songs which bring quiet to the room. Featuring various memories of love, hope, loss, and dreams; there is transparency in the sound while the accompanying harp, played by Sophie Ribstein, is beautifully apt to the session.

In Dreams, the simplistic lyrics of Msaki are obvious but then so too is the unique way in which they are crafted. Although we gain further insight into the very cultural background of Msaki as she takes us on a journey into the language of her forefathers, and the beautiful sound of the Xhosa language. Delivery is everything in an acoustic environment, and this is where the South African born singer really shines in our 2SeasSessions.

When you consider the raw talent and dedication of this colourful artist over the years, it comes as no surprise to hear how Msaki whole heartedly believes in the power that music has to re-invent a person. After all, in 2012 she was chosen from more than nine hundred entries from across the world to study in North Carolina (USA) with a handful of other musicians, artists, and writers.

It was through this very experience, that Msaki was compelled to focus on her craft and embark on a journey as a full time musician. Since then, the songstress established an independent record label, released her debut album, and is currently in the midst of promoting Zaneliza: How the Water Moves through a series of international appearances.

Msaki is undoubtedly a talented musician who continues to inspire in South Africa and the rest of the world.

 

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2Seas Session #7 - Artist Profile - Neil Cowley Trio

The Neil Cowley Trio

The Neil Cowley Trio is an acoustic-jazz piano group consisting of Neil Cowley (Piano) Rex Horan (Bass) and Evan Jenkins (Drums)

When Neil Cowley performed on the intro to Hometown Glory by Adele, the talented musician became one of the most listened-to pianists in the world. At the same time, both Neil and his accomplices are best regarded for their incredible take on what is referred to above as an acoustic jazz piano group. You see, there is no one box in which to put this trio, for the range and style of their sound is unlike any other, anywhere in the world.

In recent years, the Neil Cowley Trio has been the recipient of several awards including Best Album at the BC Jazz Awards, Artist of the Year by Jazz FM and Best Radio Show at the New York Festival. An undeniably impressive lineup of awards but in truth, they result from decades of performing, touring and recording. In fact, the Neil Cowley Trio have played and recorded with an endless number of well-known acts including Gabrielle, The Brand New Heavies, Adele and even the Stereophonics. With the above in mind, it was unsurprising for the Neil Cowley Trio to receive an award of such magnitude from the BBC, not to mention an invitation to appear on the world famous Jools Holland Show.

Early Years for Neil Cowley

As a young soul, Neil Cowley started his first band in school. However, the musician had a very indifferent start to his studies as once enrolled in the Royal Academy of Music; he found it an incredibly distasteful experience. As a result, he left the academy and having responded to an advertisement, ended up performing as a keys player in the Pasadenas in the Royal Albert Hall.
Afterward, he went on to join the Brand New Heavies who would embark on a world tour lasting four years in the early 1990s. It was only after this experience when the pianist began writing and recording his own songs incorporating jazz, acid house, and even trance into his compilations. Following the release of two albums, the record label to which he was signed, went out of business but the trio which was formed as a result would go on to win the above mentioned Best Album at the BBC Awards.

More recent times for The Neil Cowley Trio

Later, the Neil Cowley Trio would see their album “Loud Louder Stop” climb in the Top 50 charts, while The Sunday Times also recognised this beautiful compilation as their number one Jazz album of the year. Neil Cowley’s work features in a television commercial in 2009 before playing piano on Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and having won “Artist of the Year” at the Jazz FM Awards, the trio are now reaping the rewards of their highly anticipated album, “Spacebound Apes.”

“In a jazz world full of introverts, Cowley is a rare musical extrovert, someone who can communicate with a broader audience. It’s something to cherish.” – The Guardian

Proclaimed as a musician of immense talent by any publication who encountered the man, Neil Cowley himself is an example of how dynamic this trio can be when playing together. After all, we have witnessed at 2SeasSessions his ability to take even the most relaxed piece of music and instantly transform it into a charismatic pop song. With this uncanny knack and influence, the songs are infused with reflective, energetic and largely eccentric themes.

2SeasSessions with The Neil Cowley Trio

Upon starting the recording at 2SeasSessions, this variety was obvious from the moment the Neil Cowley Trio opened with a rather chaotic sounding “The sharks of the competition”. Having grasped every last piece of attention in the studio, they proceeded into the poignancy of “Grace” before the marching thunder of “Governance” filled the room. Well known as a contemporary producer, pianist Cowley leads the trio into a series of powerful and dynamic songs – each with a stamp and feel of its own. We can hear influence throughout, from Arcade Fire to Spiritualized but the genuine authenticity of the Neil Cowley Trio is never in doubt.

The new album “Spacebound Apes” by The Neil Cowley Trio is currently available, and you can find the most beautifully stripped back acoustic versions of these songs in our 2SeasSessions. It was a session of variety in which we endeavoured to capture this encounter with a genuinely distinct sound. From the moment they arrived to the last.

It was once said that the Neil Cowley Trio produce “the greatest stadium-filling anthems that Coldplay never wrote" and it would be hard to argue with this point. After all, Coldplay did not write them; the Neil Cowley Trio did.

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2Seas Session #6 - Artist Profile - Phat Bollard

Phat Bollard

Phat Bollard is a busking folk band and collective of intrepid travellers from Cornwall, England.

Above is possibly the strangest description you are likely to read for a folk band, but this only begins to explain one side of this fascinating group from Cornwall, England. Although usually a group of five, Phat Bollard are known for the controversial nature of their songs and a flamboyant lifestyle which sees them travel from one destination to another in the UK, busking everywhere they go.

Phat Bollard was named by the daughter of Patrick Aaron, a founding member of the group who counts Gandhi, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley and Winston Churchill amongst his countless influences. In many ways, this can explain the unique nature of the band's style, while also indicating as to why they choose to sing about rather controversial topics (More on that later). Today, they can be found touring all over the UK as their troupe gathers momentum in the face a public who are just as interested in their lyrics, as the melody of the songs.

Phat Bollard – The Travelling Band

Although six members joined us in the studio, Phat Bollard is known for being a five-piece including two guitars, washtub bass, percussion, and a mandolin. Together, their sound needs no amplifier as the sheer volume of these songs is immense when they play together. At the same time, they go together beautifully which partly explains their popularity on the busking circuit in the UK.

As mentioned above, the music is considered controversial in some circles because the songs confront listeners using lyrics about serious issues. From poverty and mental health to inequality and love; the theme will change from one song to the next, but the interest always remains. Another highlight of witnessing Phat Bollard in full flow is undoubtedly the accent, for it is heavy and unspoiled, while also making no excuses for the rather brash way that it sometimes comes across. All considered, they can be compared to a punk rock band with an acoustic vibe, yet again, the extremity of the language is often the main difference.

Incredibly, it was a viral video which brought Phat Bollard to the masses in England and all over the world. “Millionaires” was the song which went viral and the lyrics directly criticised peoples (and businesses) attitudes toward homelessness. Having reached more than two million views on YouTube, their videos became a household talking point and which seemed to bring more meaning to music than it had done for many people. After all, these were songs which outlined problems common folk had with the government and sympathies they had for such issues as homelessness.

Entering the mainstream (or not)

Phat Bollard was suddenly endearing to the public but there was still the issue of foul language. For this reason, they could never appear on a radio station or major publication. Many suspects this song could have even made number one in the charts had they changed the one word of profanity which “took things too far” for the mainstream but instead, Phat Bollard remained focused on what they do best – travelling the country and busking to anyone who will listen.

Although it must be said that their refusal to omit foul language or conform for the sake of corporate radio does give some idea regarding the extent of how much Phat Bollard love to perform. Furthermore, such enthusiasm is obvious in, or recordings at 2SeasSessions as this travelling troupe whisk up every song into an unrelenting frenzy. Covering songs about economic disaster, an uncaring council, police brutality and the trials or tribulations of travel – they may be controversial but the recordings are engrossing in every way.

You might have guessed already that our 2SeasSessions with Phat Bollard exceeded every expectation and the liveliness of the group, made it an absolute pleasure to capture as they stormed through their set. Playing no less than six songs, Phat Bollard recorded stripped-down acoustic versions of Go To College, Lovin’ Your Neighbour, Bovine Elegance, Insane And Lazy, Live And Learn and Honest Places.

Elmore Magazine described Phat Bollard some time ago as “the most important group you’ve never heard of” but at this point, their notoriety continues to grow. So while some may argue, and they may be right, that Phat Bollard will never make the “mainstream” there is no question that this travelling troupe from the town of Cornwall will continue to prosper as long as there are issues in this world which need fixing.

 

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