April 2018 Blog from Stu Vincent - Hillbilly Boogie
Welcome, dear readers, to another blog from Hillbilly Boogie.
I am sitting down to write this article as the drizzle falls and dampens the grass that eagerly awaits its first cut of 2018; never mind…I shall not be disturbing my neighbours with the sound of the mower today. I confess to being a reluctant gardener so, with not the slightest hint of disappointment, I shall listen (once more) to Vivian Leva’s fabulous release ‘Time Is Everything’ and put fingertips to keyboard for this article.
…and if you have heard Vivian Leva, here is Vivian with Riley Calcagno singing the title track of ‘Time Is Everything’
If you use Facebook you will have seen graphics* imploring you to support live music, support local promoters and musicians – I have shared them myself (and will continue to do so) – so I thought that I would write about one of my local promoters.
The little village of Earls Barton (which is a ten minute drive from Northampton) is the regular home for Kontra Roots.
Kontra Roots was established in 2004 by Kev Buxton and, since that date, has brought music to Northamptonshire and further afield. Over the years Kev has arranged regular music events at a number of venues across the county and has maintained a significant presence within Northamptonshire; Kev currently organizes:
In addition to these, the most frequent event in the Kontra Roots calendar, is the fortnightly Kontra Roots Club evening at the Earls Barton Working Mens Club.
Tip: if you are coming to the Kontra Roots Club in Earls Barton, the fish & chip shop in the village by the church is splendid!
Admission to the Kontra Roots Club is currently just £3.00! (though should you choose to pay a little extra to support the club, this is welcomed).
One of the advantage of being in the Working Mens Club is that the room has a stage and lights so the artists are well-presented, visible to all and Geoff always does a very professional job on sound too – the rest is up to the artists!
Through the course of a Kontra Roots evening, there are generally four artists on stage; these range from local musicians to musicians from further afield – such as the very entertaining Two Blank Pages from Shropshire who we saw recently. There is always a wide range of music presented though folk, blues and Americana are the most prevalent styles – which suits me just fine. Indeed, the first person that we heard play at Kontra Roots – Sunsinger – found himself nestled in between Gurf Morlix and 3hattrio in the Hillbilly Boogie playlist for the 10th February.
Our most recent visit to Kontra Roots began with Tammy Levy joined (on this occasion) by Kev Buxton on harmonica. Tammy delivered a lively, country-blues start to the evening that - in my mind - deserves her being further up the billing for her next visit.
As a committed fan of The Delmore Brothers, I will forgive Tammy declaring that ‘Freight Train Boogie’ was a Marty Stewart song because she did a fine job of singing this classic song (and Marty Stewart does do a fine job of it too!).
After Tammy’s set, Jo Ash took the stage supported by Mike Wheatley on guitar and Nigel Turner on bass.
This was a departure from the folk, blues and Americana that I had come to expect from Kontra Roots and one that I applaud.
Jo’s music has been likened to that of Kate Bush and she undoubtedly has a very fine voice and her songs were delivered with great passion and were very well-received.
Next up, from Ireland, was Ian O’Regan.
One of Ian’s early numbers was an acoustic version of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Oh Well’….and, oh my, what a version. Ian’s set was mostly original songs with the inclusion of the afore-mentioned ‘Oh Well’, Tom Wait’s ‘Chocolate Jesus’ and a song by John Fullbright (confession: I was too busy listening and then applauding to write down with of John’s songs that Ian sang and my memory fails me as I sit to write).
Talking to Ian, he mentioned that he had recently supported The Black Feathers; I would have loved to have seen on of those sets.
Closing the evening was Two Blank Pages from Shropshire.
From their set at Kontra Roots, it is easy to see why they had previously been invited to play at the marvellous Shrewsbury Folk Festival.
They have a very good stage presence and I could imagine that, in a festival setting with people dancing, that they could easily bring the same kind of energy to an audience that The Avett Brothers might. Apart from the appreciation from the Kontra Roots audience, the ladies behind the bar were clearly enjoying Two Blank Pages too.
All of this was brought to us in a small club in a village in Northamptonshire by a dedicated music-lover and promoter….FOR £3.00
The energy and commitment that Kev Buxton brings to Kontra Roots is exceptional and Northamptonshire music would be the poorer without his efforts.
This is what I would ask: find your local ‘Kontra Roots’ and support the music that is put on in halls, pubs and clubs. You may not like everyone that is on a billing but you WILL hear and meet new musicians, you WILL make new acquaintances, you WILL help to keep live music being played and - if you put your hand in your pocket to buy a CD – you will be supporting independent artists.
Just to close – here are a few links to promoters who are either personal friends, friends of Hillbilly Boogie (or both). Please check their websites, find a concert and go along:
*Side note: is it ‘me-me’ or ‘meem’…either way, it’s an odd word and now I have had to look it up and apparently it is pronounced ‘meem’ but I shall continue to say graphic!