Sunday, 22 March 2015

Catching the buzz: Rhino and The Ranters

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That critical moment when it all starts to work...

Assuming there's merit and talent in a band, and that the band then backs it up with graft and a bit of a marketing push, there's usually a point when word gets out. Suddenly, big numbers show up for gigs. Suddenly, the name gets bandied around. Suddenly, there are faces turning up to check out the new boys on the block. Suddenly, people you tend to listen to are mentioning them.

Last week, at Dylan Gibbons' Blues Night at the Spotted Dog, you could see the signs. There were faces aplenty, come to take a look at Rhino and The Ranters. And it was a cracking gig. 

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Curtis Little: goodbye to one of the greats

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On Friday, I went to another funeral. 

It was to send the great Curtis Little on his way, and to celebrate his life. 

When I landed in Birmingham, two generations ago, I was taken, very early, by Slender Loris, a band that mixed complex intelligent songs with delivery, from Curtis, that was punchy as hell. 

As a DJ, I couldn't believe my luck: a voice like that? On my patch?

Whip-thin, all sinew and muscle, not a spare ounce on his frame, Curtis was the epitome of a front man. He had a voice to die for, rich, soulful, deep, and he really knew how to use it. Where it came from, God only knows. But he was a joy to watch. 

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Old folks boogie: astute business by Ricky Cool

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Wander into Broad Street's Brasshouse at the right time, and you're in for a treat. A free treat. 

    Photo: Birmingham Post 
It's weird. Broad Street Birmingham is the last place I'd expect to see decent live music. The place swapped Ronnie Scott's jazz venue for a lap-dancing club, just when Birmingham was trying to get City Of Culture. The place is full of loud chain pubs, industrial dance joints, karaoke bars and some very iffy catering. You go there to drink, lots.

As the night wears on, Broad Street becomes Purgatory Street: shrieking hen parties, testosterone morons in sports cars and quad bikes, pissed-up conventioneers and lads on the pull. Buses don't stop there now on Friday and Saturday nights. And just watch where you put your feet.

But on a Sunday lunchtime, once they've hosed it down and swept it up, it's a whole different place. In the Brasshouse, you can now catch, free, some of this city's most experienced bands, playing to an up for it, older, crowd. These aren't lame covers outfits who don't 'get' the music they serve up. These are players.

It's all good. And it's all been set up by local muso veteran, Ricky Cool.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

The great BBC Midlands underspend: the Birmingham Post and Mail wade in

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Wow. FINALLY.


On Birmingham streets this week
I've written about this before. You may have already seen the posts; if so, I thank you. There are links to my main blog outpourings on this at the bottom of this post. 

Some background: the Campaign for Regional Broadcasting Midlands have been lobbying hard about this for some time now; they are absolutely right. But there has been little or no serious response, let alone attempts to address the issues raised. 

I'll sum it up: The BBC Midlands region sends more money down to headquarters in London that any other region, and gets an insultingly small amount spent back locally, way less than any other region. 

This has led to a collapse in the regional broadcast sector. It has done damage. It has stunted careers and jobs growth. 

Frustrating. How do you reverse arrogant and remote corporate mindsets and actions which have, very deliberately, crippled job prospects and hobbled creativity in the region?


Sunday, 22 February 2015

Kris Halpin and his magic Mi.Mu gloves

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Handle with motion and emotion


On a wet Monday on a Tamworth industrial estate, I'm chatting with Kris Halpin, and trying to digest some pretty incredible developments. I've known Kris for about five years. He was directly responsible for one of the most widely read posts I've ever put up on this blog, so I owe him. That post was on steps to score airplay, for local musicians; there's a link at the bottom of this post. Kris is a very accomplished muso. And now, Kris is one of a very select few – 15 all told - to be chosen to test and develop Mi.Mu gloves

These are mind-boggling things. They open up doors.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Half a century on the road: the unstoppable Mr Burton

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50 years of classy guitar


You know how it is. You wander into a boozer and there's a band on. Old guys, enjoying themselves. Stripped down PA, maybe not even a stage. Seems fun, seems harmless. Nice to have a bit of live stuff while you drink.

Until you pay attention to what's going down. It may not be radical cutting edge stuff, but, hey, sometimes, those old guys catch you unawares. Comfortable as you like, not remotely fashionable, but they can play. And if you're very lucky, after the lessons learned, and the chops polished by years of live work, those old boys can just... knock you out.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

A West Midlands YouTube Top 50: February 2015

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If you don't know already, you'll be amazed at what goes over BIG from our patch
  


February 2015 is here, so here's this blog's six-monthly roundup of West Midlands artists, ranked by viewing numbers on YouTube. There's a couple of surprises, and a fistful of impressive new entrants. 

This is statto heaven, and you can pick out seriously interesting patterns if you compare results over the time I've done these charts: links to earlier rankings are at the bottom of the post. 

Winners, losers, runners and riders after the jump.


Sunday, 1 February 2015

The inventive and resourceful Tom Peel

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Not one but two albums in 2015. You South Brum beardie hipsters can swivel: one's all about North Brum. The other album? Greatest Hits. There aren't any, yet, but let's not quibble.  

You may not have seen Tom Peel yet. When you do, you'll know. Peel (no relation) does things like take to the stage with a reel to reel recorder strapped to his chest. And he runs exotic events: folk gatherings deep in the woods. When I went to one, I searched through the gathering gloom in Sandwell Valley, following handmade signs up hill and down dale until I stumbled across a decorated clearing where the gig took place. Logs laid out in a circle for people to sit on, and a brazier sending out a cheery glow. 

Mr Peel does not pursue immediate commercial success. But his projects have undeniable, oddball charm and he sets about getting them underway with impressive purpose. That's not a combination you see every day. I'm very glad he's working on our patch. And now, Tom is doing not one but two albums. 

Sunday, 25 January 2015

You want to do radio? Well, what's stopping you? Here's how to do it for free

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OK, here's a challenge. How cheaply can you get started doing your own radio shows? How low-cost can you go? I ask because I'm always looking for workable, simple approaches that let people who want to learn the trade get some serious practise. At this stage I'm not concerned with perfect sound; I am concerned with learning the ropes. The more you do, the better it gets. 

Why? Well, for radio to grow and survive, we need great broadcasters, and we need them fast. And that's just for starters.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

The JB's book. Dudley cool.

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People make places. 


It's only when you look back that you realise. You sail along with your crew, deep in the moment. You deal with hassles, fix problems, file away a bit of quiet satisfaction when it goes well, and savour the moments when things really click. But you don't get the perspective until later. 

Say you were in a band, and you check back on those recordings of a 25 years back, when you were young and smoking hot... Or you played in a particularly sharp football team. Or you sang, you really sang.