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2015: The Year in Music

There's been some good music about again this year.

Around Brighouse there has been some fine music to be heard most weekends at the Beck and/or Millers Bar, plus the odd event at the Cock of the North. And the highlight of the year on the local scene had to be the amazing Brighouse Canal and Music Festival in August where the weather's dramatic mood swings did nothing to dampen the spirits! I know I probably sound like a stuck record, but to have the quality of musicians like The Rainey Street Band, Blood, Sweat and Beers, Ryan Spendlove, Chris Martin, Bella Gaffney, Scott Wainwright, JP Totham, and the Tom Gee Band, regularly playing in the town means we punch well above our weight in terms of musical quality. And then there's bands like Rugosa, who are from Brighouse, but tend to play further afield but who nonetheless contribute to the area's musical heritage. And let's not forget Roger Davies, who whilst playing nowadays all over the country still comes back to play in Brighouse on a regular basis, and next year plays support to the legendary Fairport Convention for a number of gigs, a worthy reward for years of hard work.

In terms of gigs I have seen further afield, one gig stands out. This was my first encounter with the amazing Simone Felice at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds, back in October. It was sensational. The gig played at the Sportsman in Huddersfield in September by Belinda O'Hooley and Heidi Tidow was also brilliant. I also particularly enjoyed the Peatbog Faeries at Bury Met, The Rails at Hebden Bridge Trades Club, and The War on Drugs at Manchester's Albert Hall. 

So as far as live music is concerned, these are my awards for the year:

2015 Local Band of the Year: The Rainey Street Band - just keep getting better!
Event of the Year: Brighouse Canal and Music Festival
Gig of the Year: Simone Felice, Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, 26/10/15

Looking at the albums I have most enjoyed this year, there is a mix of old favourites and new-to-me artists. I have no doubt that there are some good ones that I've not heard; indeed had I heard St Vincent's album in 2014 it would have definitely have been included in last year's list. So with that caveat, in no particular order, here's a dozen of the best, in my humble opinion, from 2015:

Sufjan Stevens - Carrie and Lowell
This was the Michigan singer's 7th album, but the first I had come across. A work of real and haunting beauty, dedicated largely to his late mother, its sparse guitar and banjo accompaniment delivers some exquisite and memorable tunes. I will be checking out some of his earlier albums during 2016. Favourite track? Death with Dignity

Kurt Vile - b'lieve i'm goin' down
Now this guy is an old favourite, and on this 6th outing, he seems as relaxed as ever. Great spacey tunes with some fine hooks, with his trademark neat guitar playing. Well worth checking out, every home should have at least one Kurt Vile album. It isn't every album sleeve shot that includes a can of Tetley's, particularly when the artist concerned is from Philadelphia. Favourite track? pretty pimpin'

New Order - Music Complete
What a comeback! A stonkin' album, full of typical New Order tunes, but with  the addition of a number of different elements, such as Iggy Pop guesting on vocals on the odd track. They didn't seem to miss Peter Hook at all. Favourite track (although it keeps changing)? Plastic

Simone Felice - From the Violent Banks of the Kaaterskill
Before October, the only Simone Felice I'd heard were covers of his songs performed by local band of the year The Rainey Street Band. So at their invitation I went on to the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds and witnessed an unbelievable gig. I bought this album at the gig, and it is a great introduction to his work for those like me who'd not heard anything before. A live double album, it includes many of his best-known songs from over the years and captures all the intensity of his gig performances. Favourite track? Water Spider

Low - One and Sixes
I've been fans of this Duluth, Minnesota, indie trio for a few years, and saw them a year or two ago when they performed at Halifax Minster. There music is often called 'slowcore', with its bleak lyrics, slow tempo, and sparse arrangements, but with some sublime melodies, this album, their 9th I believe, is one of their strongest yet. Favourite track? What Part of Me?

Neil Young - The Monsanto Years
I've been listening to Neil Young for 40 plus years, and whilst I've not enjoyed every single album he's produced, he has released some classics, and I've learnt that you write him off at your peril. This is a cracker, recorded with a new backing band, The Promise of The Real, including Willie Nelson's sons. And it is as if he has got a new lease of life, as he rails against GM foods, Starbucks, and numerous other targets, and shows he can still rock with the best. Favourite track? Big Box

Richard Thompson - Still
Another old favourite from way back when, this was another chapter in the story of arguably one of this country's most significant musical dynasties. Produced by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, it is his strongest set for a number of years, with some typical Richard Thompson songs ('She Never Could Resist A Winding Road'), whilst on 'Guitar Heroes' he pays homage to key influences from his youth - Hank Marvin, Les Paul, and Django Reinhardt. Favourite track? Long John Silver

Ryley Walker - Primrose Green
Richard Thompson used to record for the Island Record label when he was with Fairport Convention, and there are references to one of his label-mates from that time, John Martyn, on this second album from Ryley Walker. There are also hints of Bert Jansch and Van Morrison as well, but despite the British influences, Walker actually hails from Rockford, Illinois. Well worth checking out. Favourite track? Sweet Sensation

The Deslondes - The Deslondes
Debut album from a New Orleans band who blended country, soul, rock'n'roll, gospel and bluegrass, and produced a cracking soundtrack which followed me around over much of the summer. As yet they are a little under the radar, but with the quality of the musicianship on show, don't be surprised if they pop up at some time in the future. Favourite track? The Real Deal

O'Hooley & Tidow - summat's brewin'
This was the album that accompanied the highly successful tour undertaken in the Autumn by Golcar's finest as they toured real ale venues up and down the country. There is a wide variety on this album; Traditional folk songs like 'Three Drunken Maidens' and 'All for Me Grog', through to Loudon Wainright's 'White Winos', Elliot Smith's 'Between the Bars', and -that man again - Richard Thompson's 'Down Where the Drunkards Roll'. All refer to drinking and its impact on our society. It really is a fine album from two real ale enthusiasts who are getting better all the time as musicians. Please note it was only originally available at the tour gigs, but can be ordered from their website. Favourite track? White Winos

The Peatbog Faeries - Blackhouse
This gets in because I like the Peatbogs, and I can guarantee that none of the other musicians I've referred to are based on the Isle of Skye, or feature bagpipes (now there's a challenge for The Rainey Street Band!). Not that the Peatbogs only include the pipes. They are only part of a heady mix including keyboards, fiddle, guitar, drums, and tin whistle with which the band blend traditional Scottish tunes with electro, jazz, dance, and a host of other genres to produce some exhilarating and infectious music that is sure to get the feet moving. This is their 8th album, and one of their best. Favourite track? Strictly Sambuca

The Young 'Uns - Another Man's Ground
I only heard this album a few weeks ago, but it rapidly became a favourite on the car CD player. They won best folk group at the 2015 BBC2 Folk Awards, and whilst they have been around for a number of years, it has only been recently that they have become well-known outside their native North-East. This album has picked up a few 'album of the year' awards and it's easy to see why. Great harmonies, great songs in the folk tradition, some written by the band, or luminaries like Ewan McColl and Billy Bragg. Favourite track? Between The Wars

It's been quite a year!

Thanks for reading, and all my best wishes to you and yours for a happy, prosperous, and peaceful 2016!
The Rainey Street at the Rock of the North Festival, Summer 2015

***Many of the gigs and musicians have been referred to above have been featured in previous blogs I've written during 2015***


  1. Blood, Sweat and Tears...What about Blood Sweat & Beers?

    1. Was a typo - all updated, sincere apologies all round

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Thanks for the mention! Especially in such company ☺


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