Make It Happen

Time for another update!

I find myself part-way along a brand new journey. For a while now I have been trying to network and catch gigs which are not so much paid, but are gigs that I’m using as music therapy to get myself back out into the land of the living … Where the focus is my health and energy levels rather than attempting to make a self-employed living at this stage.

It started off slowly and of course as offers didn’t happen too quickly at first I lost a little faith and found myself at a small point of despair for a while. Since then though, I have received loads of trickling offers of little performances here and there, and the simple fact that I have managed to do each little gig so far has kept me motivated and enthusiastic to get out doing more. The wheels are finally turning.

I’ve got one 90 minute gig under my belt, despite not having the energy, and that in itself was a really big achievement. I know I can’t do that very often… It made me poorly and that’s fine now and again… But to do one of that size really pushes the energy boat out and is as rewarding as running a marathon to someone in my situation.

I’m finding that doing 45 minutes is about the optimal for me at the moment. When I finish I feel exhausted, and have to recover for a day or two, but it feels manageable. The result of a two 45 minute set meant a recovery of nearly 5 days. That’s not very conducive to getting better, really.

The scenario I find myself in is a strange one. Since September I have been self-injecting an immunosuppressant called Humira. The results of that have been levelling out, so that now my tummy is working better than it has for a year, and although not perfect, is at least in a position for me to cope alongside it running at about 80% well compared to 20% 2 years ago. The Humira has definitely made a difference there. The side-effects though, are that Humira tends to tire me out. When I inject it, I feel like a tranquilised rhinoceros. I last about an hour or two at best before being fast asleep. I sleep through all alarms and awake with a sore leg but feeling refreshed a good 12 hours later. I take it every 10 days and still feel a little dip on day 9 so may be taking it even more often once reviewed… but this does make sense… My immune system, the thing attacking my tummy, is a very strong one. Before being ill with Crohn’s I was actually very well *all* the time. Days off work were only ever toothache related before all this. The everyday tiredness is one of a few side-effects of the Humira in that since September I have felt a level of fatigue that is double what I was experiencing before taking it. Joint pain and back pain fluctuate so that some days I need to take Tramadol and others I don’t, but fatigue is the last symptom in the chain of Crohn’s… and it is a real shame that the drug I take has this effect as well, doubling up the fatigue level. I could be taking this for a very long time… and so as of right now, I really do not know when I will start to feel an improvement in my fatigue levels. Some good news, is that I’ve been found to be low in Vitamin D and Folic Acid… (my tummy just doesn’t pull the stuff from food like yours does) and thanks to our wonderful GP service I am not able to get these extra supplements until April 7th, which is a big deal, as a lack of these things has a direct result of “Knackereditis” as well. I’m hoping with these supplements that I should start to feel a new level of energy… and it is at that point when I will know I have a better chance to start thinking about making a living again. As things stand though the best description currently is this. I feel like a car battery. I plan to do a thing, wind myself up to start the engine, get there, do what I need to, but my battery runs out after the first few turns of the key. My engine slowly dies, exactly like a car engine that starts fine, and then tails off into an unhealthy cough before an almighty silence… Then I have to recharge my battery with carbs and sleep for a day or two, sometimes more before I can dream of turning the key again. That’s me in a nutshell at the moment.

The good news is I am in the half of the Venn Diagram that allows my stomach to function a little more normally, even though some things still cross over from time to time. It is the better of two evils… to have a slightly better tummy but to be more tired all of the time. Even better news though, is at least I am back in the game, and that is what it’s all about after all, regardless of which symptom is holding me back today.

The amount of opportunities that have arisen since my Facebook plea a while ago have truly been overwhelming now that some time has passed and more people are aware that I’m trying to get back out there. Even though most things are on a voluntary level, the reason I am taking them on if I can is to maintain this momentum of having things to work towards, look forward to, and to have gigging as a form of stamina building and musical therapy for me. You have to understand, that we’re not just talking about gigging here either. I’m talking about even getting out of my house to get to the shops. I have to use a trolley to lean on just to do my big shop and a guy of my build should be throwing trolleys around the aisles not resting on them.

Energy should never be taken for granted… I can tell you!

My yardstick is the walk into town from my house. On a better day I can do the walk slowly and get there without stopping, but I need to rest when I get there before doing what was planned. On bad days I get to around Westgate bridge and simply have to stop as my tummy feels like someone is stabbing me and my bum is so sore that I have to call a taxi to take me home rather than do what was planned. This changes by the day.

Despite all that I’m gigging again and loving every minute of it, because every gig is like soul food for my batteries! It’s hard, granted, but I honestly believe I will never complain about hard work ever again, thanks to being forced to have so much time off, and so to be able to sit here and write a blog about how amazing it is to be gigging again really is a huge deal to me.

The excitement of waking up and not knowing what emails are sat awaiting you is extraordinary. What opportunities sit in the inbox today I now wonder daily… Is it a gig? Is it a mentor meeting with a brew with an ace hard-working musician? Is it an offer of radio play from the album? Do I have a Paypal notification that means I have to set an alarm tomorrow to go and post out my spanking new album to someone lovely?

It’s utterly uplifting and is getting me through this limbo period more than I could have ever dreamed.

And so to the next announcement, which is a happy accident relating to all things networking and volunteering, that has really inspired me, thanks to that simple old tactic… of saying yes to everything. I am delighted to announce that I am now the new official CD Editor at Leeds Music Scene.net! :D

Many who know me have recently seen a journey of sorts into the land of writing in one form or another, whether it is as a blog, a diary, a CD review or another long-winded soppy Facebook message that thanks a million people again for the third time. My fingers seem to be happy at a keyboard, and my mind adores running away with internal monologue, and so for me I think this is a perfect fit. In terms of my health it is actually a great distraction from the symptoms to be able to focus on writing for a while even though I feel uncomfortable. I am incredibly delighted to have such an opportunity, within a group of lovely and hard-working volunteers which means that I will have the chance to hear SO much local new music, and have the chance to objectify what I hear in such a way as to give the review reader an accurate feel for what to expect from a record. Putting it simply… This is bloody exciting!! It’s something I can take at my own pace with no finances or pressures to worry about, and is also something I try to do really well… Helping people, free of charge. :D

I guess the important thing is that at least now I am able to say yes to things, and even though I cannot hope to do everything I am saying yes to, at least I am getting out and about and creating a little momentum, which in turn is keeping my health in check to a fashion. It’s a case of hoping people understand that even though I’m attempting to get out more and do more things, that it doesn’t automatically mean I’m well as such… it just means I’m refusing to let this beat me, and attempting things anyway. It does get a bit weird when people ask me how I am, that I simply can’t say yes I’m OK… But I am now able to say… I’m getting there. For someone who has been struggling for over 2 years now with this stuff… That is a ginormous leap forward, and is liable to make me write blogs like this, that highlight my gratitude for the good things in my life.

I hope I am going on about it less and less, and also hope that people don’t get too sick and tired of hearing about stuff when I do feel the need to be honest… It’s quite tricky when half “How are you doing?” questions are intended to be short questions and you know it’s not going to be a short answer… So I am also grateful for people’s patience. It is very easy to forget that not everyone lives on my wall, and not everyone sees how I struggle when I do get home and my body shuts down… leaving a scenario that feels like I’m not sure how much of yesterday’s episode of neighbours I’m in need of re-running before today’s episode. Silly… but that about nails it.

So thank you. Thank you for being understanding, and for wanting me to take part in everything and for offering again and again knowing I likely have to say no… I’m saying yes more often now… so your patience has been worth it. Please do keep asking! ;)

It seems that my patience has been rewarded too. My second announcement is an absolute belter. I have been asked to support the wonderful Antonio Lulic and the fabulous Nizlopi at Unity Works in Wakefield on May 7th, voting day. You likely know who Nizlopi are… if you don’t they are a wonderful duo who have some serious kudos and an amazing underground following after they released a highly successful song into the charts a few years ago called The JCB song.

Most will be aware that I am very good friends with Antonio as it is and so having us three particular acts on the same bill really is a dream come true for me. I feel giddy beyond belief in all honesty, not only because I’m a little star-struck… which of course goes without saying… but I am just so overwhelmed that such a lovely set of guys have given me an opportunity like this. I feel completely humbled and am looking forward to putting on a professional show and getting my harmonica out to play alongside Antonio just like the old days. Gigging with friends is one of the most amazing feelings ever. I can’t wait! *If* you don’t know who Antonio Lulic is… then feel free to watch one of my finest chums being amazing on this handy video which was on the telly!

And there we have it. A little update with some positives to look forward to, and a big dollop of thank you very much. :D

Happy Easter folks! xx

Ryan Mitchell-Smith

 

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Lunt

Taken from my Live Journal: New Years Eve 2005-2006

What a night. Apart from the obvious drawback of not having Alice there to join in the fun and games, this New Years Eve was amazing. This Christmas generally has been stunning. Christmas Eve gigging with Dr Blue was fantastic. Boxing night gigging with Antonio was just brilliant, but New Years Eve. It was all about New Years Eve. Antonio had gone up north and had claimed to be spending New Years Eve on his own at his home in London. I thought it a little weird and wanted nothing more than Antonio to be here with us as the clock struck midnight. As it turned out, at about 6 ok on New Years Eve, I’m on the phone to Alice in Ireland, and there’s a knock on my door. Antonio is the surprising figure on the other side, and my heart jumps into my mouth as I jump up and down still holding the phone. He arrived in good time and arranged secretly going to a meal that Elly and Jharda and Woo-Ha were organizing. All very hush hush. I continued to try and get everyone in the same place at midnight, which was O’Donoghues at midnight. We managed it. Me, Ant, Matt, Jharda, Rik, Fee, Jim, Lloyd, Meg, and Rosie all jumped up and down and gave big hugs at midnight in the back room of O’D’s, which was totally our room. We then started to get silly. I started necking vodka red bulls, and I rang Alice, at 12:01, and got through first time! Better than last year!! I got very very very very very very very very very very very pissed. We stayed at O’D’s till about half 1-2ish, but by then we were joined by Elly, Woo-Ha, Andy, Gnome, Rik, Laura, and possibly other people who I don’t know. So 16 people trekked back to my house, where earlier I’d cleaned and prepared glasses and drinks and set up my vodka and red-bulls. I smoked a bit and at approximately half past 2 I lost recollection of all memory.

I do however have an account of what transpired:

  1. We all started playing guitar. Antonio did a version of Hallelujah which I shouted over and totally ruined.
  2. Antonio then played some blues, and in my pissed state, I managed to do a solo over it, in the right key with a few fluffed notes, but then at the end, I played 2 notes next to each other gradually slowing down, until I finished on the right one, and then in a timely fashion, I fell off my chair.
  3. Jharda then took a video on her phone of me rolling my arms around shouting the words “Rock ‘n’ Roll”, it then panned to Lloyd, who was looking at me, thinking how much I reminded him of his friend Mark. It then panned back to me as I screamed “Shamone Mutha” then the video ends. Oh Dear.
  4. Then Jim went to the door with Lloyd for some fresh air. I discovered that the door had been opened and I proceeded to run out into the street, stop in the middle of the road, turn left, run full tilt up the street, I then ran into someone’s garden and tried taking a piss on their front door. Jim tried to stop me, but I got free and ran to someone else’s door and pissed on theirs instead.
  5. I lost my brand new 256MB USB flash drive.
  6. I smoked more.
  7. I went to the bathroom and opened the window at speed.
  8. I tried closing my window incorrectly and broke it leaving a wide 30cm opening at the bottom as it stuck.
  9. I wrote the words “MUTHA FUCKA” on my bathroom mirror using Vaseline.
  10. Rik (fawn) went around my house writing the word CUNT on my walls in navy blue insulating tape. I found 4 instances the next day.
  11. Antonio went around after Rik and removed the top bar from the C of CUNT so now everywhere said the marvelous and now much treasured word “LUNT”.
  12. I hid in the scullery.
  13. I fell into the scullery.
  14. I fell over and kicked Gnome in the face.
  15. I ate something red.
  16. I fell into the scullery.
  17. Matt threw his mobile phone at me and it hit me in the chest, winding me a little, at which I disagreed with him that it was a good idea and we had some sarcastic cross words.
  18. I fell over, and landed miraculously in the scullery.
  19. I shouted things.
  20. I regained some consciousness and remember telling people at half past 6 that I was going to bed.
  21. I shouted for Lloyd after realizing 2 things. 1. I was upside down. And 2. I couldn’t untie my shoes.
  22. Lloyd rescued me by untying my shoes.
  23. I discovered to my dismay that some fiendish acquaintance of mine had written the word CUNT on my bed. The full length across, in huge letters, in navy blue insulating tape.
  24. I fell asleep.
  25. I woke up.
  26. Matt made me a coffee and threatened to open my curtains.
  27. I told matt to fuck off.
  28. I looked at the clock. 2pm.
  29. I got out of bed and found the word “LUNT” all over my walls.
  30. I found a tissue version of the word “LUNT” on my video shelf carefully torn.
  31. I went downstairs and found my kitchen cupboard handle broken.
  32. I discovered my new hat was missing.
  33. I discovered my USB flash drive was missing.
  34. I discovered my house was VERY messy.
  35. I spoke to Matt on msn and apologized for being a big grumpy head and for telling him to fuck off.
  36. I apologized to Ant for being a grumpy head too.

We are talking folks about a mammoth victory of a new years eve. I would not change any one thing of what happened, other than Alice being there of course. It was godlike in proportions and hilarious! Although I lost about 4 hours, and a full roll of navy blue insulating tape, it was simply the best New Years Eve I’ve ever had. And I’ve had a few corkers.

Happy New Year everyone!

Ry xx

Fiona Bevan: Talk To Strangers

NAVIGATOR088-300pxReleased: 28-04-2014 on Navigator Records

Album Review: By Ryan Mitchell-Smith

If you do not yet know who Fiona Bevan is, then you are in for a real treat. This is a little like when you are telling someone about a favourite TV show like The Wire, or Breaking Bad and how you are almost jealous that the person you are telling to watch it has got all of those amazing episodes to look forward to and you wish you could watch them unknowingly all over again. Yeah. That.

Fiona Bevan is an artist who should be in your life, like, yesterday.

All you may have heard on the grapevine so far is that Fiona Bevan is a singer-songwriter from Suffolk. Well I can assure you, there is a great deal more to know about Fiona. Firstly…

You are in safe hands.

I slap the CD in the machine and take my position in my favourite listening seat and hit play on the remote.

The album starts much like the chance meeting of two strangers passing simultaneously through the doors to some busy hotel reception with the opening track “Rebel Without a Cause”. Bevan has chosen this track to be the second single from the album for official release, on May 18th 2014, it’s a stunner, and a great choice. The first official single was “The Machine” released on March 9th, 2014.

Fiona’s iconic nylon string guitar says hello with a catchy minor riff that places a vision of two people in love creeping across a divided city in the dead of night firmly in the mind. Her voice dances in with a captivating tone, singing the word “thumbs” with a delicious mannerism which captures Fiona’s unique voice and style perfectly. There is a musical tip of the hat to the danger and conflict from the same titled film but it is obvious that lyrically this track is about something altogether very different. This is a love song in all it’s glory.

Bevan cleverly reflects conflict with minor riffs and melodies which switch delightfully to major lifts within the space of the verses before gratifying the listener with a delicious melody, surrounded with beautiful orchestration for the conflicted but hopeful chorus. This really is wonderfully mature song writing which doesn’t dawdle and spend too long waiting until the end of the song. In fact all the songs throughout the album are as long as they should be.

The song has a definitive attitude to it which balances with Fiona’s sweeter side. The trick is that her song writing is refined, and therefore she is not scared to take the structures and spin them around as she pleases, yet she has a consistency that leaves the listener trusting her completely.

The chorus is wonderfully bouncy and the song ends with a submissive section which relieves all the previous tension in an extremely beautiful and giving outro, painting a picture of two caged birds that have at last been released to fly away together.

This song is a brilliant song in its own right, but sets up the album as a first track wonderfully well.

The album continues into the cheerful and hopeful “Slo Mo Tiger Glo” (Track 2). Another catchy masterpiece. This is a nodding whilst smiling song, even though it is more hopeful in content than obviously *cheery*. The switch to half-time during the “please time go slo mo” section illustrates a deeper understanding of word painting within the context and fibres of the music and is a rather genius use of feel and timing, leaving the listener tantalised with tension, but I will revisit why this is *so* successful later on.

Suddenly we get a different direction… An almost urgent ticking begins full of mystery with “Us and the Darkness” (Track 3). It is now we begin to see some of Fiona’s influences coming out more obviously. There are many moments of wonderment within this song, all delicately placed like some petal covered Panna Cotta in a Michelin restaurant. From the beautifully simple call and response from the haunting piano… to the glorious swelling orchestral sections which carry you away completely with cellos hugging you warmly as if given from a favourite uncle… This song is incredible. Any fans of Lou Rhodes (Lamb) would be delighted with this album, as Fiona shares a similar maturity of writing and singing, and has managed to elevate her unique vocal sound in the same way with what she has stunningly produced here.

The fourth track “The Machine” takes us back in time with a Spanish feel solo nylon string guitar which oozes a haunting aura. Fiona again enters vocally with a short flutter, like a bird hovering at the bedroom window in the morning sunlight, before suddenly an industrial beat cracks the whip of The Machine and a military style snare enters and lifts a beautiful canopy of rich strings and vocals. Wow. Those vocals! The harmonies in the chorus are to die for. We’re talking about Kate Bush levels of expertise here, mixed with a Björk-like knowledge of instrumentation, what to include and when. Again, fans of both would appreciate this album and this track hugely.

The bridge to “The Machine” utilises a beautifully put together vocal rhythm that Bevan delicately dances with amongst the quiet dynamic of the founding guitar part, which serves as a perfect build up to the chorus, but also gives yet another knowing wink to the listener of Fiona’s level of skill and the love she has for her craft.

Here is the stunning video for “The Machine”:

There is something special happening here as the journey of the album unfolds. The attention to phonetics that Bevan uses so naturally adds yet another level to this album. It comes down to attention to detail and it is clear that attention to detail is what Fiona is ALL about. From the very last “T” sound to a perfectly controlled squeak that *always* lands in tune at the right volume for the right amount of time, every sound this lady makes is planned and intended and is delivered with utmost care. The album has captured that beautifully, and puts it on display for all to see.

The bridge contains some seriously amazing lyrics and musicology, which lifts this section to be truly magical in many ways, and thus it deserves a little more attention.

“Listen, listen, don’t lose the rhythm, cos if you’re not with them, who’s the loser then?

Listen, listen, don’t lose the rhythm, cos if you’re not with them, you’ll lose…”

The lyrics are extremely well chosen, focussing on phonetics once again Bevan makes sure that she plays to her mannerisms and strengths. She very cleverly highlights the similarity of sound at the end of the word “rhythm” and the word “them”, turning the words into some delicious mouthful which emphasises the rhythms she chooses to use here in an incredible way. This whole section is absolutely captivating, and it should be. Bevan wanted it to be, and clearly spent a long time finalising and perfecting the way in which she sang this section.

The lyrics themselves belong to the song in a deeply meaningful way and Bevan doesn’t leave them there. At the end of “The Machine” the section is repeated but developed even further on a semiotic level.

“Listen, listen, you’re not a victim, if you use your rhythm then you’ll outwit them.

Listen, listen, you’re not a victim, if you use your rhythm then you’ll outwit…”

The meaning and interpretation (semiotics) of the music is very important here and Bevan relies upon the connotations of the lyrics whole-heartedly. The first time round the lyrics seem to take an advisory role to the listener, and yet the development of those lyrics later on invite a solution to the problem posed by the song like a teacher softly and patiently encouraging a lost student to find their way. Expertly done and duly noted.

In both these sections Bevan uses metric modulation to give the impression that the timing and tempo of the song has changed when in fact it hasn’t. Metric modulation gives the illusion that the tempo has doubled/halved when in fact the note durations themselves are halved or doubled in value over time instead. This means that minims turn into crotchets which therefore fit into each other perfectly causing this lovely musical phenomenon. It’s a clever and brave person who has the confidence to play around with timing and feel in the way Fiona does here. This is advanced composition mixed with delectable restraint to an incredible level.

Bevan also uses the metric modulation technique rather more obviously earlier on the album during the song “Slo Mo Tiger Glo”. This time rather than linking the word “rhythm” to the use of this excellent timing tool, she utilizes the other side of the meaning of time, and uses it when she mentions *real* time in the slowing down sense within the chorus during the phrase “Please time go slo mo”. Here it is much more obvious that the tempo remains the same but that the metric modulation keeps things ticking along in a way that creates the illusion of time slowing down. In this case the 1 beat crotchets change to 2 beat minims whilst the semi-quavers from the percussion accent the change in feel over the top. This is executed with absolute ease and shows a much higher understanding of composition and how to make the very most of lyrics in the context of the music which is supporting it.

“Gold” (Track 5) walks in and is much more subtle and restrained, but is a masterpiece of a song. It’s here that you can hear Fiona’s life experiences and hard work all paying off in what is one of the finest songs I have heard in years. The jaunty and flyaway nature of this song is impossibly hard to achieve on a record, and Fiona has absolutely got this one right. It’s clear from this that this lady is absolutely on fire with her song-writing and performing. This lady knows what she is doing. Wow.

“Gold” uses an extremely mature and developed chord progression which highlights Bevan’s understanding of harmony and lets the informed listener know that she has incredible ears and vast musical knowledge behind her seemingly easy song-writing skills. This is far from easy. This is refined in the same way that Bevan uses her impeccable vocals.

Hard work. Lots and lots of hard work.

The track ends with a stunningly beautiful solo guitar played by Bevan… Phwoar.

“Dial D For Denial” (Track 6) is a stupendously gorgeous song that takes us back to the Pop side of things which contrasts “Gold” really nicely. The song writing is again matching the same quality, and it is only here that I personally found anything like a hiccup. It’s not even a hiccup. It’s just a personal preference thing. I’ll explain.

When I first heard about Fiona, it was down to a friend (Antonio Lulic) who covered Fiona’s song Dial D For Denial at his own house gig. I fell in love with the song instantly as I watched a live stream of it. I then heard Fiona’s version and fell in love with it all over again. For me, the version I heard on the “Us and the Darkness” EP was so absolutely wonderfully done, that hearing something other than the haunting piano and muted guitar rhythms that I’d got so used to, means that the new xylophone on the album version distracts me when it shouldn’t. It’s a great version on the album… don’t get me wrong, but my word… I just adore that haunting piano on the EP version, especially with the muted  guitar strings over the top of the piano. What can I say?

What I can say, is that this song utterly breaks my heart and often brings me to tears, whichever version I listen to. This is wonderful song-writing at its very best, whichever version you prefer.

A gorgeously rich guitar brings us back to “Monsoon Sundance” (Track 7) with resonating bass strings that massage the earlobes with another beautifully well-produced soundscape. Congratulations and a round of applause to ace producer Shawn Lee. The album was recorded in his Bloomsbury Studio on analogue equipment in its entirety and you can really tell the difference on high end speakers especially. There is warmth within the soundscapes and recordings that scream analogue gear and the vocals have clearly been recorded using vintage top quality high-end wonder-microphones. The clarity in Fiona’s voice is superbly yet easily captured and lovingly placed within the mixes with a very restrained and sensible use of some glorious reverbs.

“Monsoon Sundance” initially reminded me of Beth Hirsch due to its Balearic guitar lilt. The song takes us on a journey across tropical islands and stormy seas and leaves us laying on the beach in the glorious sunshine.

“Exorcist” (Track 8) takes us down another road altogether with a piano taking the lead with a haunting role. This song is a beautiful example of dynamics and use of tension. I found myself being utterly drawn into the songs story. This really is “Pop in disguise”, a phrase Fiona has used of her own music. She’s not wrong.

Uh-Oh. Title track time!

“Talk to Strangers” (Track 9) begins with an electric guitar that I was totally not expecting at all. It is full of attitude and has an organic soul flavour to it which again only goes to highlight Fiona’s rich arsenal of influences and styles which she taps into at will when needed. There’s a good reason she can do this with so much success. She plays many musical instruments, including guitar, violin, double bass, accordion, and harp amongst others, and has a really well developed sense of when to use these and in what textures and at exactly the right times.

The guitar is joined by a bluesier Fiona and we are told a fresh story, again full of mystery. This is a song about having the heart to trust people you do not know, and the way the song develops in orchestration and dynamics raises the hopeful nature of the good that trusting someone can bring. That’s my interpretation anyway.

“Pirates and Diamonds” (Track 10) brings us another bouncy ear-worm. A more obviously ‘poppy’ song which still maintains a fabulous disguise, as Fiona executes this with such delicate taste that you simply cannot stop humming this song for ages afterwards.

The Spanish influence re-joins the fray with “Forwards”(Track 11) and the pacey train-like momentum of this track really gets your attention. The structure takes you on a brilliant journey as Bevan again shows expert placing of major lifts and minor drops with some sections sounding as though they would not be out of place on a film soundtrack, like Run Lola Run. I start to wonder if there is anything this lady cannot do!

Then a sultry piano pushes me back into my chair with a beautifully simple and haunting version of “Last Days of Decadence” (Track 12). This is such a powerful and moving song that it made the hairs on my neck stand on end. Fiona sings this with such passion and conviction, with beautiful low notes which raise and dance up to high descending melodies with impervious ease.

As the last track on the non-bonus version of the album, this was a wise and beautiful choice to leave the listener with… Like a kiss on the cheek before you know you won’t see a loved one for a long time, only you can skip back to the start of the album, and listen all over again. That’s what I want to do. I bet that is what you would want to do to, if you took the chance to get a copy.

I got my version pre-ordered on iTunes, and so it contains the two bonus tracks “Love in a Cold Climate” and “Drive”.

“Love in a Cold Climate” (Track 13) is such a happy-go-lucky song that it serves as a perfect tonic to the haunting yet hopeful nature of “Last Days of Decadence”. This is a warming the heart song, which is filled with glorious harmonies and simple instrumentation. If you are like me, you’ll be humming this one for ages too.

“Drive” (Track 14) finishes my bonus copy with a piano ridden piece of beauty. I feel like I have just had the perfect encore at the end of an extremely well-conceived gig. It is another heart warmer that pulls at the heart strings with every mile we go into the song.

As a complete package this album is designed as a journey. On the way we see a beautiful landscape of “Pop in disguise”, thanks to the inventive and well-chosen structures Bevan uses as a vehicle, which is driven by one of the most beautifully unique and characterful voices I have ever heard. Bevan is in full control at the wheel, having masterminded a long and hard journey of gigging and writing music and accepting and making the most of the right opportunities.

The album has come together beautifully and is hugely successful from beginning to end. The highlights for me personally will differ from yours, but the vocal work simply cannot be denied. This is no accident. This lady is seriously talented on another level completely. I am utterly convinced that this is only the start of her worldly journey. This album is going to propel her to stardom on a level beyond anything she has experienced already and she hasn’t been idle as it is. I foresee Jools Holland appearances, and anyone who has been aware of Fiona for any amount of time will be totally aware that the buzz surrounding this lady is there for a good reason. She’s the real deal.

If you hadn’t heard of Fiona Bevan, then you have now. But you probably already had done to be honest. She co-wrote “Little Things” with Ed Sheeran for One Direction which went to number one in the charts for the band all over the world.

Fiona finds herself in a fantastic circle of friends and performers who she works with regularly, namely Ryan Keen, Kal Lavelle, Antonio Lulic and of course, Ed Sheeran to name a few.

This is no accident. There is a pool of talent emerging, and has been doing so for some time now. This renewed recent burst seemed to start around the time Sheeran was buzzing just before he released his PLUS album. The connections seem to have something in common, and that is that these artists are working incredibly hard, harder than ever before to gig and get their music out into the world in the only way that works… to gig as often as possible.

It was during one of these gigs that I so nearly met Fiona myself. I was playing Harmonica for Antonio Lulic at his debut EP launch “Never Or Tonight” back in February 2011 at The Light Temple in Shoreditch. I was cunningly invited by Antonio to help myself to a beer from the *artists* fridge which was in the dressing room. After plucking up some courage I went for it. I sneaked through, even though I was allowed, and found myself in a big kitchen. “Dressing room?” I thought. Hah! I went to look for the fridge and as I did so I was caught red-handed even though I was allowed. Two ladies entered the dressing room kitchen and were deep in conversation together, laughing and joking at the same time. Both had distinctive blonde hair but with very, very different styles indeed. One had shaved her head at the back and had a gorgeous sweep of long hair swooshing forward across her forehead. The other lady had the biggest curliest blonde hair I have ever seen in my life. It was mesmerising. As it turns out.. I had been stumbled upon by the delightful Kal Lavelle, and the delicious Fiona Bevan

I managed a smile and an excuse me as I sheepishly negotiated my way around them with my dodgy bottle of beer in my hand, as I went to get up on stage and assist my colleague with the aid of a nerve-quelling beer.

Since then I have missed every opportunity to catch Fiona at a gig, but have since played my harmonica with Kal Lavelle, which is a wonderful experience and memory which I will never forget. I am told that Fiona and Kal are doing a gig or two together and I for one intend not to miss that for anything.

It would also be a shame not to go and see Fiona Bevan on her forthcoming tour with Ryan Keen, another highly successful song-writer and wonderful guitarist.

Details for that tour can be found here:

http://www.ryankeen.co.uk/tour/

Or check Fiona’s gig list to make sure you don’t miss her:

http://fionabevan.co.uk/live/

I highly recommend that if you are in the business of buying fantastic albums, that you consider the purchase of Fiona Bevan’s “Talk to Strangers”.

Fiona Bevan – Talk To Strangers (iTunes)

It’s absolutely bloody brilliant.

Ryan Mitchell-Smith

From Dusk Till Electric Domestic

The bank holiday weekend. My oh my! I was looking forward to this after a term of ridiculous hard work and silly hours. It was time for a classic… And that’s what we got.

When Lauren Rich got in touch and invited me to play Rock, Crackle & Pop (Dusk Till Dawn, Archway) again I got a teensy bit excited that I had the perfect excuse to have another London jaunt. Within days a second option appeared, the 1st ever Electric Domestic. To be run by the usual host of Acoustic Domestic, naturally, Mr Antonio Lulic. Excellent!!!

Rubbing my hands together a plan began to form… to stay 2 nights chez Lulic (he is so very, very generous!) and enjoy a little time with my friends, one of whom, needed a celebration of the birthday kind. This was TOO good to miss. As I sat on the trainline site to book my tickets a familiar bing-bong chat noise came through and Cat Thompson told me of her plan to visit family in London that weekend!! Would I like a lift?! Yes please. Heated seats in an Audi TT, and the ability to stop at any services we wished. Delightful. A very kind lady.

The week preceding was full of long hours, with the addition of rehearsing up and deciding my set for the gig. I went with a 5 pronged attack, with a double rear gunner formation in the form of an encore song or two with Mr Antonio Lulic. He was to attend. This was getting better by the minute. In the meantime the Electric Domestic site started to gain momentum… People started saying they were going and Lloyd Hartley and Ruby Macintosh joined Simon & Rachel Rowe as potential Yorkshire contingents ready for a trip to the big smoke.

Good Friday.

You beauty.

So Cat rolls up at half 2, we grab new spare strings and I get comfy. I’m sorry I haven’t a clue adorns the stereo after a huge ben folds hit. Services. Large Latte. Sunshine in most parts… clear traffic ALL THE WAY DOWN. Arrive into London around 5:15pm. Small blip as we approach Henley Corner to see smoke plumes and shortly after BIG flames as a motorcyclist had some issues and left his bike to burn after it fell on its left side at the junction. We saw him 150 yards down the road, limping, in all his leathers, carrying a precious white carrier bag cursing under his breath. We feared the tank would explode as we circumnavigated the wreckage but I endeavoured to get an Instagram all the same.

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Arrive at Dusk Till Dawn in an easy fashion and grab food while we wait for Lauren Rich to arrive. Cat departs for family loveliness and I catch up with Lauren Rich and get on with setting up for what was shaping up to be a great little gig.

It didn’t disappoint. As 8pm nears Lauren & I have finished the sound-checks and the artists and their ace audiences had filled lovely little pockets of places throughout Dusk Till Dawn. I had my own contingent there also and enjoyed a rare treat of catching up with some friends I don’t nearly see enough of. At this stage I also set up my camera the best I could to cope with the lighting of the venue and I hoped to get a couple of videos to help out the other acts a bit.

First up was Lauren Rich, our host and loveable artist all rolled into one. She played her new single Fragile Girl (available here) and warmed up the audience with her soaring voice. Despite some guitar technical issues this was a great little set and I always look forward to seeing what Lauren comes up with next.

After a mad dash from the station Rosizm were up! A lovely duo (normally a solo act) from Northampton featuring Ros on guitar and lead vocals, and a lovely guest flautist. Ros did a set of chilled out rich-toned guitar based songs which reminded me of Fink in their ambience. The flute really set the songs apart as the flautist played melodically and knowingly in the gaps.

Tenzer were up next, a duo from Manchester now alighting in London. Their sound-check revealed Dave Matthews influences to me and I got excited. Their set didn’t disappoint. A great choice of originals/covers and a DMB one thrown in for good measure. They explained they hadn’t gigged for 2 years. You wouldn’t have known it. Excellent support work from guitarist Ant who clearly had a great connection with Jonni, both playing with soul.

Tom Craven bounded upon the stage and instantly grabbed my attention as a real *one-to-watch*. He had a lovely tongue-in-cheek demeanour and yet managed to play his songs sincerely, the result of which gave a very polished but easy going performance. Spot on. I was looking forward to seeing this guy again! I managed to grab some photos and nearly one video each (Tom’s video was scuppered by my battery) but the shots I got can be seen here:

It was my turn. I realised that headlining meant I was going to lose some audience members before I’d finished, but I did realise this beforehand and understood completely why people had to leave. People have trains to catch you know! I really didn’t let it bother me as for one thing, I do try to play my best whether it’s to one person or a hundred… It was time to get busy!

I went with The Subject Line, followed by Thirty-Something, chilled things a touch with All Cried Out, then into The Pilot, winding out with May You Never. Antonio joined me for What I Need, and then we did a rare track indeed.. Our old version of Walking In Memphis. It. Felt. Awesome.

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Great response from the lovely audience (the place was still pretty populated) and we settle with our drinks before a brief packing away. All in all, a fab little evening.

Back to Chez Lulic for chips and catch up. Ace chips. Acer catchup.

Lulic springs the information that I’m to have an Airbed. AWESOME!! J

Sleep 1.

Good Saturday.

Electric Domestic.

We awake. Kettle noises and quiet conversations. Rhiannon Mair. Nice to meet you. Poached eggs and salmon on crusty toast. Ace. Coffee. Coffee. Time to get ready.

We chuck the ad-hoc backline into Rhiannon’s motor and Antonio and her speed into the distance to prepare the PA for the evenings shindig.

I catch a bus. 2pm-ish. Time to meet Lloyd and Ruby. Ring Lloyd. “will meet you at KGX”. Ring Lloyd. “Can’t meet you at KGX, lines closed.”

Ring Cat.

“Meet in Hackney to drive out to Westfield and grab food and presents for someone ace?“

“Sure!”

Westfield was HUGE. Wagamama’s on a sofa in an American style mall is VERY cool. Shopping done and not too stressy. Coffee. Time to go.

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Diversions mean we’re a little late arriving to Electric Domestic. Cat’s got her ticket, as does Lloyd, Ruby, Simon and Rachel, Jharda, Marion, Jon, and a myriad of other half-known-yet-to-be-known friends and acquaintances I have long longed to meet.

Walking in and the apartment is stunning. Lighting all lilac and stage bound, the length of the room alone seems to extend like some corridor from The Sandman, yet it is our ears that are to be tantalised… What HAS Antonio got lined up here?!

A one-of-a-kind type of night. That’s what.

Rhiannon Mair started the night’s entertainment and after meeting her earlier that day, I was looking forward to seeing this lovely person do her thing. Erm Wow. Amazing set! After collecting my brains back together I got on with a little light drinking and mingling.

I met some amazing people.

I finally got the chance to meet Matt Belmont, a fab singer/songwriter who used to live up in Leeds and ran the Open-Mic at the Leeds Hop for a time. He has since moved down to London and is building a great reputation for himself.. a VERY talented man.

I sat next to John Parker, the most passionate musician I’ve ever seen, who occasionally disguises himself as Antonio’s Double Bassist, amongst playing with other extremely-talented muther-fuckers. We were about to play onstage together for the first time, only I’m not sure John was aware of that at the time!

I shuffled across to stage left when Antonio and John took the stage. I readied my harmonica and leaned back. I wanted to enjoy this. Antonio never ever gives less than 200% at a gig and tonight was no exception. Well played. The haunting “Oo-ee-Oo-oooooh” still rings around my hankering cranium. You ear-wormy bastard. I love you. Antonio flicks his eyes at me as John gives the line I did for Now It’s Cold a spin. I approve beyond measure. I beam back at him. I bump into the lovely Martin Cox as I readied to join the pair of them for Antonio’s last number, “Hey, It’s Okay” <click for a great little video from Martin. I at least remembered not to come in until after the first chorus and let rip. It felt LOVELY.

Another Palma. Tequila and Grapefruit juice essentially. Essential.

I bumped into Stu and Marion and Jharda and Rachelle and loved catching up. I watched a stunning band called Paper Aeroplanes (Also with John) do a set and then pirouette onto the audience floor and witnessed an acoustic wonder of a performance. A true time stopper.

The unannouncable special guest arrived and promptly came across to say “Hi”. After a lovely catchup he readies and takes the stage. I take a seat. Watching him play, I see similarities, and I see things I wish I could do. And I see amazing song-writing, and feel inspired to get better at it myself. Wow.

I ask who the current act is… “Peter And Kerry”. I asked because the harmonies and electric guitar I was listening to was taking my brain to happy places. The way these two melded together was utterly enchanting, a privilege to watch and experience. When the rest of the band joined them the layering of sounds simply elaborated into a clever sea of haunting melodies. Stunning.

Burritos are served behind the open-plan kitchen by Off-Broadway and the smell is only matched by the compliments I over-hear. The bar exudes cool and the staff fill your drinks willy-nilly with more alcohol than the helpful menu suggested it contained. Hic. AEC.

Annie Eve grabs my attention by musically ripping my heart out and flicks my ears with a gorgeous set of beautifully crafted songs. John rips it up again. Fucking hell John. John glugs his water like an Olympic athlete over an 8-bar count ready to land on the 1 for the 3rd chorus. Boom.

Post music I spot John pacing around downing high protein nuts. He must secretly take red-bull intravenously. I have never seen a man play as though every note is the last note he might ever play before. This gentleman is a special musician, and a special person.

I catch Rhiannon briefly and compliment her work on the sound. Not only did she open the night, she ran around looking after everyone and got a phenomenal sound in essentially a “live” hard-floored apartment. With a bath. Awesome job!

Lloyd asked me if it was ok to have a bath. I said no. He said I should let him have a bath right there, right now. I said I wasn’t allowed to let him have a bath. Lloyd bought me a drink.

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We helped Jay pack his van and headed back to Antonio’s armed with 2 bottles of strong Rose. Within minutes of our return, Antonio donned his Pikachu One-sie and.. well…

“Pikachulic”

Sleep 2.

Good Sunday.

Asleep after sunrise we ensure Antonio rises in time for his Exeter set-off time. We (Lloyd, Ruby and Cat) don our shoes and head to Duke’s for brunch. Bellies filled and hangovers on show we catchup and laugh the morning away.

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The journey back was equally trouble-free and service filled as on the way down and I arrived home unable to do anything else other than flash back to the best weekend I’ve had in years.

Good work London. You were awesome.

BBS.

Ryan Mitchell-Smith xx