THE BAD SHEPHERDS
Sole support act tonight is Ella Edmondson, daughter of Ade, a talented singer-songwriter who has been gradually rising to prominence within the contemporary scene through wide acclaim in the music press, and some prestigious support slots for the likes of Jools Holland on a handful of dates during the latter part of last year. Displaced from her usual bass/percussion backing, tonight's show and, from what I gather, the whole tour, sees Ella stripped-down to a bare bones performance with just her voice and guitar. And, to be honest, with an array of compositions as strong as those in her set this evening, coupled with a compelling vocal performance, Ella's purely 'solo' guise doesn't feel lacking in any small way. Far from it, in fact, she oozes charisma through her commanding stage presence as she treats those in attendance to her pleasingly varied tunes, from the infectiously melodic mid-tempo piece 'Hold Your Horses' (title track from recently released debut album) to the haunting melancholia of the quasi-balladic 'Breathe'. Ella's amusing between-song banter and jokey demeanour is nicely offset against the 'seriousness' of her music as she entertains those present with news about her incontinent dog amongst other tales, and it's refreshing to see a singer-songwriter with a sincere and genuinely likeable personality rather than just going through the motions on stage. Warmly received by an appreciative audience, Ella's performance is quite simply stunning this evening, and testament to any songwriter/performer's talents is when your head becomes infected with the melodies long after the music's finished (I can't seem to get those damn '...Horses' out of mine!). Go check out this extremely talented lady right now. She is surely destined for great success.
Thursday 1st October 2009
Drill Hall in Lincoln, UK
THE BAD SHEPHERDS
The fusion of punk and folk genres is not a new concept, a marriage of styles originally pioneered by The Pogues back in the early eighties. However, never before has any band so extensively rearranged (or should that be deranged) old punk and new wave numbers into folk stylings as tonight's headliners, The Bad Shepherds. And by fuck do they do it well. Led by one Ade Edmondson, well known by certain generations as a comedy actor in much-loved sitcoms 'The Young Ones' and 'Bottom', and appearances in 'The Comic Strip Presents...' (which spawned legendary spoof-band Bad News), he is perhaps lesser known as a director of 80s music videos for The Pogues (how apt!) and Elvis Costello amongst others. And the multi-talented man has recruited some fine folk musicians to join him in his current venture - part-time Nightwish collaborator (and session musician in Barbara Dickson's band) Troy Donockley on uillean pipes, cittern, and whistles, the virtuoso fiddle skills of Andy Dinan, and the recent addition of session player Brad Lang on electric double bass. Maartin Allcock, famous for his work in Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull, unfortunately left the band pre-tour to concentrate on peripheral musical activities. Arriving onstage to ubiquitous cheers (and the odd heckle) from a largish crowd gathered in Lincoln's Drill Hall, Edmondson & co commence with Sonny Curtis and The Crickets' 'I Fought The Law' (although I guess it is The Clash's version they pastiche here). 'Up Against the Wall' swiftly follows, before an airing of 'Whole Wide World'. What strikes me immediately is how malleable these old 'classics' are in their transition to a folk aesthetic or, rather, this is The Bad Shepherds innovative genius at work. Stripped of their raw aggression in one sense, their chosen covers are infused with unpretentious folk charms, and the songs remain sincere expressions of pure, unadulterated musical vigour which is how they were originally intended. The rebellious anarchy inherent in many punk lyrics of yore, although perhaps less confrontational in the 21st century, are largely still pertinent in a contemporary context, albeit assuming new meaning in our current socio-political climate. Versions of the Sex Pistols' 'God Save the Queen' and The Clash's apocalyptical themed 'London Calling' which are played this evening perhaps ring even truer today in their intended polemic through the clarity of Edmondson's vocal delivery. However, pretentious observations aside, the folked-up punk discharge of these four talented musicians is a fuck load of fun, but comedy it is not. Although a flyer and poster advertising tonight's show would have you believe The Bad Shepherds are part of Lincoln's Comedy Festival (and simultaneously the Lincoln Folk Festival), this is a band who are serious about what they do, offering their own unique 'tribute' to some of the greatest tunes from a bygone era of musical history. Edmondson does feed those in search of comedy with his entertaining wit between songs, although the essence of tonight's show lies with the music. And what of the man's self-labelled style of "thrash mandolin"? Well, we're not talking distorted power chords here, but he most certainly gives that instrument a damn good pounding with displays of wild strumming. Thrash mandolin indeed! Edmondson clearly has a passion for what he's doing with The Bad Shepherds, and there is a discernible onstage chemistry between the four men as they perform. Wrapping up their ninety minute set with the aforementioned 'God Save the Queen', they return for an encore of The Clash's first ever single, 'White Riot', and Sham 69's 'Hurry Up Harry', and Edmondson precedes the songs with an observation on three inflatable sheep that have inexplicably materialised at the front of the stage, remarking to Lang "there are four of us in the band, but we are on our own tonight. Sorry Brad - looks like you will have to go without!" He also informs the audience on the availability of their album for sale on the merch stall, stating "please go and buy the CD...I'm loaded, but the rest of the band need the money!" Transcending any notion of 'novelty act', The Bad Shepherds ooze musical sincerity and, to reiterate, are a fuck load of fun. Go catch 'em on tour. Awesome!
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Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
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