Considering herself to be an “Afro-progressive”, Traoré has made six albums, drawing on her Malian roots, but also incorporating sounds from around the globe. Bowmboï (2003) won the Critics Award category at the BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music in 2004, and Tchamantché (2008) won Victoires de la Musique World Music Album of the Year in 2009. Traoré also won Best Artist in the Songlines Music Awards in 2009.
I stumbled upon Gwenifer Raymond when I came across a glowing review of her debut album, the 100% instrumental You Never Were Much Of A Dancer, released last year. I had no idea she was Brighton-based and, later on, during the course of a conversation with an old friend, it transpired that he knew her, and was a big reason why she was eventually picked up by the esteemed American record label, Tompkins Square. Subsequently, she has been announced for this year’s The Great Escape festival. A highly accomplished guitarist, who plays in the so-called ‘American primitive’ style, I caught up with her on her lunch break.
William the Conqueror is the band, post-solo singer/songwriter career, put together by Ruarri Joseph, alongside Harry Harding (drums) and Naomi Holmes (bass) during 2015. Bleeding on the Soundtrack is the second in a proposed trilogy of autobiographical albums, which began with 2017’s Proud Disturber of the Peace. While that album addressed a less than idyllic period in Joseph’s life – the confusion of adolescence, addiction, divorce, upheaval – Bleeding on the Soundtrack continues to explore these past indiscretions, sorrows, hopes, loves and more. Produced by Ethan Johns, it was recorded live (with added overdubs) over the course of 12 days at Real World Studios in Wiltshire.
Best known for the huge hit ‘Ode to Billie Joe’, Bobbie Gentry soon after released The Delta Sweete in 1968, a concept album based on life in the Deep South, her Mississippi childhood, and church life. Somewhat of a trailblazer, in a very heavily dominated male industry, Gentry was one of the first female artists of note who wrote most of their own material. She wrote eight of the 12 songs on the original release, the other four representing re-workings of songs she heard whilst growing up, such as ‘Tobacco Road’. She was also heavily involved in the production of her music, played guitar, often painted her own record sleeves, and designed her own costumes. She was a game changer in many ways, not least because she withdrew from both recording and performing, and indeed being in the public eye, by the early 80s. Her last album was released in 1971, and her last ever single, in 1978. Although still alive, very little is known about Bobbie Gentry, post-1981, when she made her last public appearance, aged just 38. The mystique, and therefore the legacy, remains largely intact.
Brighton-based Thyla have been kicking around for a while, firstly as the solo project of Millie Duthie, before she grew the idea into a full band. After releasing a steady stream of singles over the last couple of years, they have just dropped their debut EP, What’s On Your Mind. Adrenaline-fuelled but with a dreamy undertone, it’s already received rapturous applause from all quarters.
Bill Ryder-Jones, a founder of The Coral, has been carving out a dual career as a solo artist and producer this last decade. His latest record, Yawn, again released on Domino, is a beautifully languid work that showcases his ear for melody. While on a trip to Resident for an in-store signing and session, he took some time out to chat with Jeff Hemmings, about the new album, his deep and on-going relationship with Domino, The Coral, and his production work.
Bob Mould seems to be in celebratory mood these days. Where once, as a young adult, beset by emotional ill health problems, drug abuse, and heightened concerns for those on the edge of existence, he wrote some of the most coruscating guitar, lyric and voice combinations known to man. While he eventually found his inner bittersweet pop melodicism, he often still came screaming out of the traps. Was there a more appropriately entitled Bob Mould track than 1990’s ‘Black Sheets of Rain’?
Within the confines of St. George’s Church, the American band Low, made up of Mormon couple Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, along with bassist Steve Garrington, are attempting to bring to life their recent album Double Negative. Sparhawk, in an interview with Brightonsfinest recently, seemed somewhat taken aback by all the fuss accorded the album, especially here in Brighton, where it was made Album of the Year by Resident. For sure, there is a strong Marmite aspect to Low, and in particular this album. Many people just don’t get the fuss. However, there are plenty who can’t get enough of their atmospheric soundscapes, littered with guitar effects, entrancing vocals, and gently questioning lyrics.
For a band that did so little, and in a very short space of time, it is remarkable that they are held in such high regard; the two-tone ska band that really meant something. Coming off the back of punk, the mixed-race Coventry band were a band deeply embedded in the cultural fabric of the UK for a couple of years; from the release of the Prince Buster-inspired ‘Gangsters’ to the epochal ‘Ghost Town’, which hit number one in the tumultuous summer of ’81, when the country was suffering from high unemployment, racial strife, and extensive rioting. ‘Ghost Town’ was to be the last song that founder members Terry Hall and Lynval Golding, were to be involved with. Immediately after appearing on the Top of the Pops stage to perform that hit, they, along with Neville Staple, told band leader Jerry Dammers that they were leaving, to form Fun Boy Three
Steve Mason has decidedly come out of the dark, and into the light. After years of cult acclaim with The Beta Band, and then years of debt, depression, and isolation, whilst living in Fife, Scotland, he’s found a new home in Brighton. He’s even got a three-year-old child to contend with, born and bred here, and he’s still making extraordinarily powerful, moving, and simply brilliant music. With the recent re-release of much of The Beta Band’s back catalogue last year, Mason’s already sizeable following continues to expand, in awe and/or in love with one of the best songwriters of recent times.