Billy Vincent – Stand On Me

Billy Vincent_RingMaster Review

A plaintive slice of British Americana but fuelled as potently by hope as it is shadows, the new album from Billy Vincent is an ear and imagination catcher. Stand On Me brings twelve tracks of streetwise intimacy and heart bred in the darker corners and depths of London. Their seemingly personal tales entangle the listener in sound and narrative and as shadow exploring as they are, come equally built on blind optimism in a host of individual ways for a landscape of vital rock ‘n’ roll.

Stand On Me is the successor to the band’s well-received debut album She and comes via Swiss label Deepdive Records to whom Billy Vincent recently signed. As mentioned its songs are themed around dark times and shadows but also explore the light to be found in the support of others and indeed hope. Co-writers and vocalist/guitarists Billy Barratt and David Vincent talked about Stand On Me before its release, revealing “We thought it important to choose a title that represents the bigger part of the songs on the record, and Stand On Me is one of those reassuring statements that if you’re lucky, someone close to you might say to you when you feel like you’re out of options, letting you know you can lean on them and it’s all going to be alright”. They went on to say, “A lot of these songs are about that, not letting people you care about crumble and disappear with the rain, it’s a positive thing and we wanted to embrace it”.

With the line-up completed by bassist Joseph Kinsey, lead guitarist Adam Roylance, keyboardist Alex Leith, and drummer Dave Rowlands, Billy Vincent open up Stand On Me with Across My Street and a swift caress of guitar and keys spiked by crisp beats. The song soon settles into a vibrantly magnetic stride wrapped in welcoming melodies and equally alluring vocals, they courted by a darker but no less gripping bassline. A southern spice is never far from the surface of the guitar enterprise either whilst an Elvis Costello meets Pretenders air soaks the song to fine effect. Foot tapping and vocal involvement is simply unavoidable as the song offers a masterful start to the album’s persuasion.

cover_RingMaster Review  A country climate blossoms with the following Sleep When You’re Dead but equally a folkish drama and reflection makes a pungent hue in the sultry presence and emotion of the song too. As in the first track, and most to follow, there is a swing to proceedings, even in its slow croon, which just grabs the imagination as forcibly as the heart spawned lyrics. That catchiness is more unmissable in Hell For Leather. Its opening lure of vocals from across the band is like a fanfare, enticing within the mellower but no less lively stroll of rhythms and melody honed hooks. The track reveals itself to be persistently bewitching, like a snarling fusion of Following Foxes and Seth Lakeman which just gets more rousing and vocally incendiary with every passing minute.

Everybody Else is another with a Costello like texture to its melancholic heart whilst Learning To Drink casts a dark acoustically honed seduction which just grows in sound and strength as its reflective narrative becomes more fiercely soulful. There is enthralling adventure to its evolving scenery and creative drama too, providing ears and emotions with a compelling proposal which as great as it is quickly gets overshadowed by the excellent Loveless Man. With bulkier rhythms and a blues bred lilt to its guitar and melodic endeavour, the song sizzles in ears, the vocals similarly inflamed with their emotive declaration for another lingering highlight.

Both the piano lit, forlornly pensive Dark Are My Days and the crestfallen Waifs & Strays wrap ears in Americana ambience and emotional encouragement, the vocals in the latter especially rosy in their glowing harmonies whilst Cheap simply smoulders in sound and emotion. All three with distinct characters uniting to lure thick attention and pleasure to this part of the album do have to bow to the outstanding You, Me, The World though, a rousing eager stroll with a touch of Denim Snakes’ Russell Toomey to its songwriting and vocal expression. The track is irresistible, stealing top song honours so far and setting another lofty plateau in an increasingly impressive encounter.

The country folk contemplation of Black Suits & Dresses embraces more imposing shadows but immerses them in its own light of optimism and warm soulfulness, leaving the rocking Sheriff Cook to bring the album to a thrilling close. From its first breath, discord and warped strings are toying with the appetite before erupting into a southern lined shuffle of enticing rhythms and smiling melodies skipped over by great grit lined vocals. There is a rebelliousness to the song, an open hint of roguishness which ensures every note and beat has the possibility of breaking ranks and sparking mass discordance. It never happens but assists in making the track increasingly bolder and unpredictable to ultimately give Stand On Me its pinnacle.

Americana and definitely country is not a flavour which gets much attention or eagerness in giving it the opportunity to be part of our ever evolving personal soundtracks here, but Stand On Me just engrosses from start to finish, with particular moments which, as the final song, lights a blaze in ears and appetite. Billy Vincent is a band gearing up to a massive future we suggest with plenty of evidence to be found within Stand On Me.

Stand On Me is available from August 28th via Deepdive Records.

Ringmaster 27/08/2015

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David Bronson – Questions


Emotionally intimate and exploratory, with a just as expressive melodic climate, the new album from New York City singer songwriter/producer David Bronson is a warm and resourceful landscape of thought and sparkling enterprise. Consisting of songs which as its title, seems to stem from Questions Bronson has asked of himself and his life, the album is a striking and immersive caress on ears and imagination. It is not an encounter which always consistently lights personal appetites to the same strength as its finest moments, but one emerging as a lingering and thoroughly enjoyable proposition easy to recommend to those with a want of soulful and melody drenched creativity.

The successor to his acclaimed 2013 debut album The Long Lost Story, ‘a decade-in-the-making, 22-song autobiographical double album’ split into two separate releases, Questions sees Bronson looking at his life and the world right now, and drawing on the likes of vocalist Robin Clark (Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson, Al Green, Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce, David Bowie), guitarist Carlos Alomar (David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Paul McCartney, John Lennon), guitarist Robbie “Seahag” Mangano, drummer Lautaro Burgos, and Gordon Grody to inventively colour these investigations. Whereas the first release expressed a more indie rock seeded sound around his seventies inspired songwriting, the new album embraces new adventurous flavours such as soul, folk, and gospel in its new proposals, a spicing helping the Godfrey Diamond (Lou Reed)/Bronson produced Questions become a captivating and intriguingly varied encounter.

From the opening Songbird, Bronson and album has ears and attention awake, its acoustic caress of guitar the canvas for some delicious harmonies and the lyrical prowess and insight of Bronson. Immediately there is a Paul Simon like air to the heart of the song but also plenty to make it radiate a fresh and original presence. Vibrant beats only add catchy texture to the gentle swing of the song but it is the gospel bred harmonies which steal the impressive show.

Both Move Like Water and Day By Day glide through personal balladry with Bronson and guitar again offering a sure and warm entrance to which melodies and sultry climates, not david bronson questions cover lgeforgetting a great throaty bassline in the first of the two, immerse senses and thoughts evocatively. Each pleases with their individual charms but it is with Push that another surge of greed hits ears and personal appetite. The fourth track is an instant drama with keys straight away looming and laying down a single prod before taking a pause, returning a few seconds later with the same Boomtown Rats like potency as they align to the alluring strum of the guitar. It is a mesmeric track, voice and music sketching an easily accessible and emotively connecting narrative in a dance of creative and vivacious enterprise.

The following Task is another stirring and inescapable invitation for feet and emotions to fully engage in, its sway of funk fuelled revelry a swift and fascinating infectiousness with melodic resourcefulness to match. It and its predecessor provide the pinnacle of the album, the thrilling peak to which other songs aspire but with varying success cannot quite emulate. Despite that the likes of the Lennon-esque All These Things and the smouldering dark folk theatre of Life Is long provide thoroughly enjoyable and lingering temptations whilst the melodic rock fuelled My Good Friend with its compelling seventies psyche rock keys, add another strain of bright adventure and full pleasure to album and emotions respectively.

The closing pair of Connect The Dots and Passing Fiction slip into more reserved hugs of melodic and harmonic endeavour which, without finding the same persuasive spark as their immediate predecessors, ignite ears and thoughts with consummate ease. The guitar adventure of the pair is an especially thrilling and magnetic coaxing, the twinges of discord which bless the imagination of strings and fingers as enthralling as anything on the album.

Questions is a definite investigation for certainly fans of the likes of Paul Simon and John Lennon but equally those of current talent like Seth Lakeman and Thom Bowden. The album did not quite ignite enough fire in emotions across its length but really only due to personal tastes and with some quite thrilling tracks and invention involved it is easy to assume it will spark a blaze in a great many.

Questions is available from 19th January via Big Arc

RingMaster 19/01/2015

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Winter Mountain – Find, Follow


The story of Winter Mountain up to the release of their first EP Find, Follow, is one which could not have been written any better by an author or poet, the coming together of the two musicians which make up the folk flavoured band a tale bred for emotive aural narratives. One half of the pairing is an Englishman who inspired by the 60’s folk resurgence in Greenwich Village moved from Cornwall to New York City. JR ‘Joe’ Francis spent a month writing and performing before heading west, stopping in Chicago for a short while. Marty Smyth the other half of the band is an Irishman from Donegal who had flown to California to search for the soul that infused his favourite records of the 60’s and 70’s. After two weeks he made his way east and found himself in Chicago too. The two musicians and songwriters found themselves on the same train heading to Memphis, began talking and discovered a mutual love for the sounds of the sixties, vocal harmonies and more was there between them. This was 2008 and from this moment the seeds of Winter Mountain were sown.

Meeting up again after their individual travels were completed, the pair came together again to write and perform, their debut show seeing them win a Battle of the Bands contest in Northern Ireland which earned them a two day recording session in a studio. This led them to the attention of Irish singing luminary Cara Dillon and her husband producer Sam Lakeman, the couple soon signing the duo to their fledgling label, Charcoal Records. Pulling in a team of musicians including Robbie McIntosh (guitarist with McCartney, The Pretenders and John Mayer), Audrey Riley (string arranger for Coldplay and Nick Cave) and Leo Abrahams (Brian Eno, Pulp), the band set about recording their debut release, Find, Follow which was subsequently mixed by Mike Crossey (Keane, Ben Howard, The Arctic Monkeys, Jake Bugg).

Does the release match the background and history leading up to its creation I hear you ask…quite simply yes, the three track release is a gentle and absorbing weave of melodies, harmonies, and emotive songwriting that inspires an immediate ardour. From start to finish it engages with, lights up, and strokes the ear with a warm and vibrant caress of sound and enterprise.  The opening track alone provides evidence of why the pair of travellers found not only a connection with themselves but the following praise and enthusiasm of others. Shed a Little Light is a refreshing stroll through an emotive summer of enticing guitar crafted melodies and mesmeric harmonies from the two vocalists. With a Nashville twang to its voice the song carries a smile to its gait and presence which is transferred through the bright lyrical narrative and its presentation. Infectious to the point where feet have no self-control, the track is an openly pleasing joy with a bass groan to drool over.

The following track Sarah is a gentler, if that is possible, and mellower temptress of melodic craft and flowing harmonies. Vocally the song is a cross between Seth Lakeman and The Everlys Brothers, whilst musically it is pure creative beauty which recruits the passions into its own emotive heart with irresistible ease.

Completed by the most potently emotive track on the release, Whenever You Lay Your Head Down, the EP is simply delicious. The final song with an even stronger Everlys like embrace is a slowly smouldering track which walks the edge of melancholic climes without losing its hope and impassioned light. It is a wonderful conclusion to a great debut which will surely ignite an appetite for Winter Mountain far beyond the folk scene.


RingMaster 29/05/2013

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Steve Folk – Urban Fox

steve folk pic

Urban Fox is the new single from Steve Folk (AKA Steve Thompson of Blabbermouth), a song which travels the senses and emotions whilst transporting them on a peaceful stroll through descriptive warm embraces. The track like its author’s lifestyle, he and his wife travelling the waterways on their roaming canal boat, is a picturesque and passionate narrative with a simplicity which seduces and plays with the affections.

With a trio of albums behind him, two via Hobgoblin Records and the third a self-release on his own Blabbermouth Records, Folk has graced countless festivals such as the Sidmouth Folk Festival, The Crawley Folk Festival, and Wadebridge Folk Festival, played across the UK as well as performed in the US and many European countries, and supported artists such as Seth Lakeman, Sam Carter, The Magic Numbers, and Show of Hands to name a few. He is also a renowned busker only playing his own material which on the evidence of Urban Folk will be a pleasing attention stealer for all encountering him on the streets.

The single celebrates city life and the need for a retreat, its gentle and infectious descriptive waltz upon the ear painting a beauty which one suspects a great many are blind to these days. Then again that is what people like Steve Folk are here for as well as to excite and ignite the emotions. The song sways with a smiling energy whilst the guitar crafts its own visual paint box of emotive colours for the listener to casts their own individual imagery from the lyrical palette box offered. It is a lovely little embrace which becomes more contagious with each inspiring hug.

Accompanying the song is a track called Home, a sequel to the lead track which takes the story on with a returning walk to the beginnings of the release, the sultry strings providing a tempting sunset to the guitar and vocals of the artists and its predecessor. The single as a whole is like a day in the smouldering arms of summer, the first song offering the first spring of day moving through its heated afternoon whilst the second brings a closing evening reflection of what came before and appreciation of what the day and narrator has in his heart.

Urban Fox is a great release which will deservedly find a place in the affections of most given the chance.


RingMaster 28/04/2013


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Ethan Ash – Playing By Numbers EP

Playing By Numbers the new EP from British singer songwriter Ethan Ash is open evidence that the rising popularity and respect the musician has garnered over the past year or so is more than warranted and deserved. It is a friendly aural hug around the shoulders, a perfectly crafted melodic emotive caress to bring another but different new breath and spark to soulful folk pop.

Ash has grown as a song writer and performer since his debut EP of 2010, the Cambridge artist evolving and honing his talent and skills across the months. Since the first release he has supported the likes of Seth Lakeman, Ed Sheeran, Passenger, Rachel Sermanni, and Nick Harper which obviously has brought further inspiration to his creativity as well as enthusiasm towards his music, whilst performances at festivals such as The Secret Garden Party, Cambridge Folk Festival, Guilfest and Bestival have only strengthened the journey to wider recognition and acclaim.

Playing By Numbers consists of six diverse tracks which come from and deal with the heart, each an emotive kiss of relationships. Whether personal or not is a question for the artist at some point but there is a passion behind the songs which suggest a closeness to the experience of someone. The excellent Make You Smile opens up the sunny disposition of the release. It is a warm persuasive sound which wraps itself around the ear, the energy and gait of the track infectious whilst the vocals of Ash sooth and evoke personal memories to join the aural haze. The folk breath is like melodic sunshine and easily captures and inspires the imagination, the song the natural accompaniment to any reflective summer evening.

The following Wouldn’t Get Through is a delicious feisty pop song, which for one who prefers a partial riot to music is an irresistible treat. The song starts with like the first track, a mid-paced stroll through the ear with a slight blues lilt to the guitar. It easily dances with the senses to then swirl them around with the fiery catchy chorus, its heated slight reggae swagger a delicious extra fruity flavour to the overall pop dessert.

From the energetic and boisterous energy Ash shifts the pace of the release into emotive acoustic gentle flight. No Love In That Bed is a sorrowed whisper upon the ear, a shadowed release which engages fully without igniting any personal sparks. It is impossible not to hear and recognise the quality in songwriting and play from Ash and accompanying musicians though, with the subtle and unassuming production from Lorenzo De Feo who also plays on the release, as an important a factor in the step forward Playing By Numbers has taken from the debut EP.

     Inside is another acoustic piece similar in presence to the last song yet has a deeper haunting element which makes it resonate much more in the thoughts. A mesmeric shimmer throughout, the song flares into little fires of aural burnt umber, its atmosphere darkened yet still an autumn view for the senses to enjoy fully. The song is wonderful and rivals the first two tracks for best of status.

The dazzling Would You Mind is a song which feels quite familiar throughout but at the same time is still a contagious joy, its rockier stance irresistible alongside the varied vocal presence of Ash. It is another song to leave one wrapped up in stirring energy and intent, and another which grows more compelling the more you entertain its keen touch.

Ending with the soulful I Like, a powerful track which rounds things off convincingly even if again no fires were lit, Playing By Numbers stands as one of the best acoustic folk rock type releases this year and easily on par with the releases from those like the aforementioned Lakeman  and the other impressive emerging artist Luke Ritchie. Ethan Ash is a definite name of the future and a more than satisfying ‘secret’ right now.

RingMaster 01/10/2012

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Rodney Branigan: Muddy Jesus

When first reading of the unique guitar style of Rodney Branigan, and especially his ability to play two guitars at the same time or guitar and piano simultaneously, one has to wonder how much is show and gimmick. Upon listening to his new single Muddy Jesus though you just know there is an abundance of imaginative substance to his songwriting and play, the song an absorbing and inviting piece of musical storytelling to dispel any of those rogue thoughts.

Raised in Texas and now based in London, Branigan since making his debut at Hampton Court Palace in 2007 has shared stages with the likes of Billy Bragg and Jethro Tull, toured with double award winning Show of Hands, and collaborating with Seth Lakeman and Steve Knightley at Glastonbury, to name a few of his highlights. Alongside his music Branigan also spends time and focus on encouraging young people through his part of the Access to Music ‘Band Factory’ team, a project encouraging children to learn directly from the professionals themselves and discover ‘how to be in a band’. His distinct musicianship and skill as well as impressively crafted songs though, has continually drawn growing attention and strong acclaim his way which the new single can only increase.

Muddy Jesus starts with a pulsating bass sound and simple inciteful beats, both aspects resonating within the senses immediately, waking them up fully for the following excellent voice of Branigan. Expressive and openly inviting, his tones bring a flavour and emotive edge to the strong lyrical content, the words easily evoking thoughts and imagery. His guitar play like his vocals, drifts through the ear with firmness and instant engagement, and all these stirring warm steely elements together just makes for a song as a whole a grooved treat to savour. It is a blues/folk delight which with its acoustic atmosphere and warm breath one can only invite deeply inside.

Taken from his forthcoming album, Muddy Jesus is a delicious piece of provocative and finely imagined rock n roll which perfectly shows why Rodney Branigan has become the growing whisper on the lips of so many.

RingMaster 15/09/2012

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Dogtanion – Japan

Eclectic and unpredictable, Japan the debut album from Dogtanion is a release which permanently intrigues and even with a landscape which is an undulating makes for one striking and ultimately enjoyable journey. It is a release which teases and plays with emotions and sensibilities whilst giving a mischievous glint to its air throughout. It is sharp and at times wicked especially lyrically but has a constant grace and mesmerism to leave one more than satisfied across its relatively brief presence.

     Dogtanion is the musical alter-ego of Matthew de Kersaint Giraudeau, a London-based musician and film-maker. Following up the well received single Islam; the album builds upon that first introduction with a gentle stroll full of irresistible twists and feisty asides to offer the unexpected and well crafted invention. A vibrant merge of electronica, acoustic and folk with essences of garage and lo-fi minimalism, the album keeps one captivated from start to finish. Arguably the first half of the album does leave the latter part in the shade somewhat but you can be quite sure it will be the reverse for just as many people and it is doubtful there will be any unable to find plenty of rewards in the release as a whole.

The album opens with Beast And The Boots a song which squeezes and slides along the imagination as firmly and skilfully as the artist manipulates his guitar, each note speaking passion with their sound and squealing caresses. The vocals are just as emotive as the music and all combined makes for a pleasing low key beginning to the release. By its end the piece has the ear and thoughts open for what is to come with brewing anticipation and eagerness.

The aforementioned single Islam comes next and immediately shows why it was so well received upon its release. Wonderfully acerbic in word and full of tantalising sounds and ideas within the warmth of sound, the song is a real treat. Imagine Arctic Monkeys writing words for a musical fusion of Seth Lakeman, Conformist and RKC and you get an idea of its charm and many aspects. Along with the following Fringepot the songs ignite the atmosphere with little blisters of musical light brought with mini intensive bursts of energy. The latter of the two is a meatier feast for the ear but both leave one with an immense smile inside and out for their unique and infectious hearts.

Best song on the album comes in the heated summer of Heavy Talk. A calypso lit fiesta of summer warmth and light headed enterprise the song is sheer excellence which refuses to let the ear and senses take a breath until its departure. Go back in time and think of something like Tom Hark from The Piranhas and you get a real flavour of not only the sound of the song but its energy and contagiousness. It is the biggest highlight of Japan and another fine example of the diversity within its shining walls.

It is from this point the album takes a turn and explores the melodic and impassioned beauty within the songwriting and shimmering sounds of Dogtanion. Bastard Song has a frame of boisterous beats to stir the ambience of the sounds and lyrical breath of the song to make a seamless switch from the upbeat first part of the album into the following heartfelt elegance. Songs like Never Change and Something Beautiful lay down their emotions in a haze of lush acoustic charm and whispered energies to great effect. Seemingly similar in intent the tracks carry their own individual presences to keep things new and though as mentioned for us the album does not retain the impossible to resist carriage from its earlier place in the ear it is never less than compulsive listening.

     Japan is an album with two faces, an A and B side which are distinctly different but obvious companions. It makes for an album from Dogtanion which works in different places for each individual and to varying success but it does work and all should find plenty to smile with inside its striking creativity.

RingMaster 05/08/2012

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