With Leamington rock band Barnabus, formed way back in 1970 having an Album Launch gig in Warwick next month it seemed a good time to look back to my only show by the band at St. Patrick's Irish Club, Leamington Spa back in 2009.
This big gig takes place on the night of Friday 20th March at the Nelson Club in Warwick with support by the Jaykays, tickets available behind the bar of the Nelson Club (ask for Clint) with only 140 available.
Today I am pleased to be able to tell you about a new release from Rob Halligan: "Nothing Good Is Wasted" which is a taster for us from his upcoming album, ‘Always Heading Home'. (Check out the review in "Hot Music Live" in May 2019 for his ‘We All Write The Songs').
The new song is a delicate piano led ballad which builds gently, adding an acoustic guitar & a few extra layers but that must be to add textures & variety since there is no grand crescendo nor climax: this is a simple heartfelt track with as much meaning at the beginning as at the end, so a consistency of sound is wholly appropriate.
Although there are eco themes embedded in the words, overall it would appear to be a manifestation of Rob's spiritual beliefs & specifically that there exists a place beyond the physical existence of this world & that things of beauty & value continue to live there once their earthly sojourn is passed. The melody & arrangement works effectively to evoke these timeless & infinite qualities & also to turn one's own mind in the direction of contemplation of the eternal.
Though once described by the BBC in relation to artists of the calibre of Bruce Springsteen and Billy Bragg (which is valid of course in terms of his songwriting skill, his honesty in writing & his commitment to writing about lives of real people), this type of song is a long way from the usual lyrical interests of such writers.
As an artist with a wide fanbase within & beyond the UK, Rob tours lot outside our immediate area & indeed has many shows planned for this year, both to play his new album and others such as ‘Psalm' (released in 2018)
However you can catch him locally on these occasions:
25th February at The Wurzel Bush Folk Club in Rugby
5th April at Willow and Tool's Music Parlour at the Harvester in Long Itchington
6th June at Motofest in Coventry (on Greyfriars' Green)
14th June at the
We cover so many multi-talented artists in "Hot Music Live": not just musicians but the photographers, visual artists & producers whom they work with. Many of these artists possess fascinating hinterlands too as they possess & ply other skills in often completely different areas. Few however are quite the Renaissance figure that the subject of this feature is.
I do hope that the name Ian Todd is already known to you. If it rings a fainter bell, it may be that you read the credit notes for "Hot Music Live Presents Volume Two" and noticed him as a member of Shanghai Hostage & producer of their music & that of Sophie Hadlum. You may too have spotted his song "Bohemian Hymns"on the HillzFM chart. If so, I hope you voted for him & all the other HMLP artists.
In fact Ian is a most prolific musician with two albums ‘Groaning Up' and ‘Bohemian Hymns' previously released and a third one underway. He is a writer, a performer (on guitar, keyboards, bass, mandolin and he sings too) a producer , a teacher and also a film maker (check out the video he & Sophie made for her recent single "Winter Came Around Too Fast " or the video for his January 2020 single "The Music Box" on his website https://www.mriantodd.com)
What perhaps is most impressive in terms of prolific output is the fact that he has just finished releasing a single every week for the past seven months. In a period when I'm noting the bounteous output of several local artists, this still must set the record.
Listening to all this music, the first thing that strikes me is that it is no surprise that he works so well as part of the multi-genre/no genre Shanghai Hostage. As I suggested in my recent review of their new single "The King" "Like all the artists I love, Shanghai Hostage just go with their hearts & where their muse leads them: they don't seem interested in emulating anyone else & wherever & to whatever they may be hostages, it certainly isn't to the straitjacket of genre labelling. This is just pure, truthful music...". This holds true for Ian as a solo artist just as validly.
Ian too seems to set himself no false constraints nor be bound by the shackles of genre expectations: he goes where his particular inclination takes him from the classical stylings of last month's (instrumental) single (wherein one can see much connectivity with Sophie's solo work) to the massed vocals of the title track of ‘Bohemian Hymns" , the affecting paean to "New Street Station" of 2019 whether led by his guitar, piano, samples or even snare drum shuffles, stripped back or full band arrangements. Personal other favourites include "Red Carousel" "Citizens of Nowhere" or "Parasites" but honestly they all appeal: I just baulked at listing every track he's recorded. Check them out for yourselves: you'll enjoy the process. The term "eclectic" fits him like a glove & few tracks sound anything like each other: which I admire & respect but it might not chime as easily with those parts of the music media who feel more comfortable finding little boxes to force independently minded artists into.
He even has a seasonal single in "Christmas Drum ‘N' Bass" wherein great musicianship meets humour & I think that that this element is a key one for describing what Ian is about: it crops up repeatedly throughout his work both in lyrics & music (and in video: that for "The King" by Shanghai Hostage is a prime example) and reinforces the sense of his writing from the heart.
Other key collaborators apart from Sophie, Beth, Richard et al include Kirk Hastings on saxophone and some harmonies, Emilia Moniszko for her art work and some of his drums are looped courtesy of thelooploft.com. Emilia and Kirk are a part of a company called "Blunt and Brave" who help people , especially creative ones, get their talent in front of people who ought to see it.
Ian's philosophy is summed up thus: "I make music in a unique way for unique people. None of us are perfect, we all have flaws; this is the one thing we all have in common. When you feel like no one relates to you, that's ok, know you're not alone and this music and community proves that". It's really hard not to fully embrace this & certainly applaud it & I believe it is really congruent with what "Hot Music Live" stands for and also I'd think chimes with so many of the artists who appear in the magazine or on volumes of "Hot Music Live Presents"
You can explore Ian's diverse & splendid work via several platforms:
Today I'm really pleased to be reviewing the new, the brand new, single by Shanghai Hostage within minutes of its video being publicly released (it's also coming to Spotify etc soon): I can't always promise this speed of response but you may safely on this occasion link it to my level of enthusiasm for this band: one of the most popular on the Coventry & Warwickshire scene. Hopefully you are already in possession of their very fine song "Nomad" on "Hot Music Live Presents Volume 2" and also their eponymous 2019 debut EP on which it first appeared.
"The King" (for that's its name) also marks the video debut with Shanghai Hostage of drummer Anna Harris. (Though previous drummer Dom McAvera plays on the recording)
Anna joins Shanghai Hostage stalwarts Sophie Hadlum (vocals, clarinet and keyboards), Beth Black (guitar), Ian Todd (guitar) & Richard Brown (bass) and the band have not only recorded this song but a whole new EP's worth of material for release on March 22nd. Their producer (who has done an excellent job) is Ian Whitehead. Look out for my review of that as I'm certainly hotly anticipating it.
Where to start? The music or the video? Both are really great & deserve equal billing, but I think the music perhaps should start.
The band, if pressed, self describe as "multi genre" but musing on their work, I wonder when "multi genre" becomes "no single genre"? Like all the artists I love, Shanghai Hostage just go with their hearts & where their muse leads them: they don't seem interested in emulating anyone else & wherever & to whatever they may be hostages, it certainly isn't to the straitjacket of genre labelling.
This is just pure, truthful music & as funky as another word beginning with the same letter and containing another one later too. No wonder they are so popular: the music is as infectious as you like and will clearly fill the floor when played live. All the band give it some (and more), none more so than Sophie's passionate vocals which go the very hi-energy end of the group's spectrum. The playing provides a platform for this & while just as energetic yet simultaneously offer a sense of cool: which adds to the lyrical effect which concerns observation of some alpha male type: the band are dissecting him & laughing at him as much as describing him. It's hard not to share their joy at what they are doing with their words & their playing. These musicians possess all the right chops, have the taste to deploy them well & form such a tight unit.
A fair bit of the impression the song leaves comes from the hilarious & spirited video which, for the moment, is how you are all going to engage with "The King". There have been several superb videos of songs I've reviewed recently: beautifully shot, evocative & lyrical (not least for Sophie's recent solo single "Winter Came Around Too Fast"), but this takes us back to the glory days of the music video as story. Couched as multiple metaphors, we see the title figure as disco poser (we don't often get urinal use shots in music videos) & literal medieval king. Which is he? Both possibly & certainly both aspects illustrate what they are trying to tell us about him. You'll keep on wanting to play this one. The details are so many & so compelling that I think the only thing for you to do is watch it here:
I can't possibly do justice to it in words & any attempt would probably spoil it for you anyway.
What more can I add about this wonderful band? To me they have it all going for them. Everyone I know loves them & they convert people who hear them for the first time. They play with great skill but also wit, humour & humanity. They have the courage to be themselves & defy categorisation, yet their work is truly accessible & frankly "The King' sounds extremely radio friendly: may they have the great success they deserve with it. Shanghai Hostage say things no one else has thought to say in the way they say them: lots of people have elements of talent but it's how you use it & the ability to use it with wit & discernment which really appeals to me & I suspect those reading this.
Read more articles in the magazine.