Rick Stuart Introduces Us To Five Artists From England
You Should Get To Know
As a teenager Rick was a rock kid, AC/DC, Motorhead, Rush, Todd Rundgren, Rory Gallagher, etc . In fact he was given a thorough talking to by the management of Woolworth’s, where he had a Saturday job on the record counter, for playing Queen’s 'Flash' too loud. He was 17 when a friend played him Billy Cobham’s 'Stratus' and that was him done. Stanley Clarke, Return To Forever, Al Di Meola, ECM, Windham Hill, which led Rick to Michael Hedges.
Rick's early twenties saw him with a job at Our Price Records, by this time he was listening to Steve Hillage, Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, King Tubby, Linton Kwesi Johnson, as well as Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, Ben Webster, Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, King Sunny Ade and more.
In 1989 he started work for Decoy Records, a specialist record shop on Deansgate in Manchester. At this point he lost himself completely in the music, from jazz, blues, folk, bluegrass, reggae, Cajun, zydeco, country, African, and he started to make connections. There were similarities between the kora & the banjo for instance, between African & Appalachian.
Rick started DJ-ing at Band On The Wall, Atlas Bar, Night & Day, The Roadhouse, trying out how these different genres of music fitted together, he also started promoting live music, putting gigs on. Ozric Tentacles (1991, their 1st Manchester gig, there were campfires on the street afterwards), didgeridoo band Outback, Martin Simpson, Chris Smither, Terry Allen, he almost put Emmylou Harris on at The Royal Exchange ! Music became almost 24/7 for Rick back then.
But by 1997 it all became too much and Rick left it behind.
Fast forward to 2008, Rick had a “proper” job, the madness of the 90’s was long past. He was walking past a couple of work colleagues having a conversation when one said, “Ask Rick, he likes jazz.” Turns out Salford City Radio was after a presenter for a jazz program they had. Rick went to talk to them, but because he didn’t live in Salford they wouldn’t take him on. But that started Rick thinking, what sort of radio show would he want to present ? Not a single genre show, he’d get bored. So, something like he used to play out, something that joined different types of music together. Rick put a proposal together and sent it off to Stockport’s Pure Radio ( thanks to his wife Penny for the idea and Paul Holloway at Pure for taking the chance) and Roots & Fusion was born, with the first show going out on 9th Jan 2009.
In May 2017, Pure Innovations (the parent company of the charity that ran Pure Radio) decided to let the broadcasting licence go, but not to worry, the station would keep running just with different ownership.
The radio presenters were told the building they were broadcasting out of was going to be demolished, so the new owners were looking for new premises & they would be off air until the move. This was only supposed to be for a couple of weeks. After this extended into a couple of months Rick decided to have a re-think.
Since 2014, Roots & Fusion had also been syndicated out of Canada via Blues & Roots Radio, so he asked the station owner, Stevie Connor, if he'd like Roots & Fusion as an exclusive. Stevie immediately agreed and they started to work out how to go live, with Rick in the UK and the station in Canada.
Rick bought a laptop & microphone, loaded the necessary software, hooked up to the Canadian server and off he went. From November 2017 Roots & Fusion has been broadcasting live & exclusively on Blues & Roots Radio out of Penny's cabin in their garden. Rick feels like he's come home, and is an integral part of the stations weekly schedule.
We asked Rick to recommend five artists that we should listen to.
Born in Paris to Cameroonian parents, Tiki’s voice is unique & instantly recognisable, her piano playing soft & resonating, her lyrics drawn from experience. Large amounts of her childhood were spent being moved between Europe and Africa, including time in Cameroon. During this time, music was a constant, an anchor. She soaked up influences where she found them, from the Makossa of Manu Dibango to the Chanson of Piaf, and even the joy of Bollywood.
Finally settling in Manchester, England, Tiki released her debut album, Out Of The Black, in 2013. A stunning ten track album of dark lyrics infused with strands of hope. The album opens with Free Like Smoke, a song about hiding away from the world and therefore your chance to grow within it.
“Shut your ears, pretend no ghosts haunt your head
And towards future pasts take a ride
Shut your dreams, pretend you're only human
And believe the child in you has died”
With subtle African rhythms throughout and a voice that has been compared to Nina Simone, Out Of The Black is infused with timeless song writing. The album was nominated for Best Debut album 2013 in the Fatea Awards.
Seven years on and there are rumours of a second album, which I very much hope will come to light at some point.
MA POLAINE'S GREAT DECLINE
The duo of Beth Packer and Clinton Hough have released four EPs (three physical, one digital), three studio albums and one live digital only album in the past eight years under the guise of Ma Polaine’s Great Decline. They have been through various line-up changes – the first time I saw them live they were a five piece – though the core duo is mesmerizing by itself.
Musically and lyrically, comparisons have been made with down tempo jazz from smoke riddled 1940’s bars and unreleased Tom Waits recordings. They have also been nominated for Blues Awards; such is their refusal to be pigeon holed.
Beth plays double bass, piano, harmonica and accordion and has a gorgeous voice, a thing of beauty, while Clinton is the master of timely restraint on the guitar, holding the songs together with brief flashes of subtle genius. Should you get the chance to see them live, make sure you sat as close to the front as possible to hear Clinton’s endearing groans as he plays, similar to some of the great jazz players.
HALF DEAF CLATCH
AKA Mr Prolific (actually Andrew McLatchie) – with almost 50 releases available via his Bandcamp page, under various guises – Beelzebub Jones, Son of Dirt as well as Half Deaf Clatch. His recordings are predominantly blues based, but can also be described as Dark Roots, Gothic Americana and Doom Country, such is their variety.
Having played in around fifteen bands (even three at the same time at some point), before going solo in 2010, HDC has certainly paid his dues, as the saying goes. He can play bass and drums, but the guitar is his instrument, from acoustic slide reminiscent of Fred McDowell to haunting dark electric pieces which have been compared to Ry Cooder’s Paris Texas. Furthermore, his voice has been described as the sound of a dead body being dragged over gravel…
Ultimately, Clatch is unique and inspired. Many of his releases are concept based, in depth explorations of the dark places of the soul. These include Dr Bloodwort’s Nefarious Medicine Show, the apocalyptic Son of Dirt release Wasteland, the two track, 45 minute Lovecraftian CrowSoul and the more recent instrumental release, Electric Desert. Furthermore, each physical release is strictly limited edition, usually beautifully packaged with stickers, art cards and the like.
East Yorkshire born Katie Spencer is a force of nature. Diminutive yet powerful, her size belies her talent. Inspired by John Martyn amongst others, she has an endearing laid back vocal style and her guitar playing is understated yet intricate.
I first heard Katie’s music thanks to one of her songs being included in Neil King’s Fatea Showcase Session release in Spring 2017. The song was Talk, taken from her first release which was the soundtrack to a short film about Katie featuring live performances and interviews.
An EP / mini album (20 minutes worth, you decide) followed later in the year, and her debut full length release, Weather Beaten in early 2019. Earlier this year she released a live mini album, which captures her live sound beautifully. My criticism is it’s too short, but then I’ve seen her live half a dozen times, and it’s not enough…
In 2019 she was invited to perform at the Celtic Connections Tribute to John Martyn evening, hosted by Danny Thompson, alongside Eric Bibb, John Smith, Edie Reader and Paul Weller.
Still in her early 20’s, she describes her music as progressive folk. I am intrigued as to where her music will progress to next
Cambridgeshire born, now living in the North East of England, Steve Pledger is master lyricist. His songs can rant against the establishment without being polemic to the point of alienation of the non-political listener. At the same time, they can stare into the abyss of the soul and put a comforting arm around your shoulders while you stand there together.
While his three studio albums since 2012 have included a handful of well picked supporting musicians, adding subtle textures of double bass and accordion for instance, his mini live album release earlier this year, Alone In The Dark, is quintessential Steve – just him, his guitar, his voice, his songs.
I have been reduced to tears numerous times while listening to his songs, even after repeated listening. Friends & Fathers for instance still causes something to get in my eye…
Many of us have struggled to come to terms with the events of 2020, and I’m sure Steve is no exception, but he has managed to write a couple of songs that tap into our collective experience of this bizarre year in a way which shows us we are not alone. Both songs, Reseda and The Baptist’s Father are available via his website and I cannot recommend them highly enough.
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