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Artist: Roguish Stranger

Album: Safe as Houses. Available at

One listen to this album is enough to tell you that Steve Digo and his band of Roguish Strangers are one heck of an act. On Safe as Houses Digo puts old fashioned British song-writing centre-stage; there is real craft here and mentions of the Beatles and Ray Davies, Belle and Sebastian, or even Scott Walker, should (quite rightly) never be thrown around glibly but this first Roguish Stranger album is class.

There is awesome garage psychedelia stomping round the swirly organs, acidic-sweet guitars, and the shouted refrain of: I haunt you! (she said) in the killer track Hotel Del Wako; it is a heady and electrifying mix of sound and well worthy of a first track on a Best of Pebbles album. There is more Hammond Organ later in the incredibly catchy (and poignant) Walk Without Fear. Is this is as political as it gets? No, silly me, it is not Jackie-Smith-at-the-Home-Office political, it is just great song-writer observations of the sort of stuff that affects us all like walking our streets at night. And it has got such a catchy chorus!

There is not a duffer track on here but briefly, some of the other track highlights include: Just a Joke, and the loving and yet painfully reflective, Losing my Mind, each song taking the listener into early 60s Floyd and then forwards to the later Dave Gilmour Floyd sound. And Steves Merseyside-tinged sense of fun shines through especially on Sophie Sunshine and Sleepy Dreamy whose lyrics are a wonderful peon to insomnia. The album has a charming lo-fi sound to it, not tinny lo-fi - just listener friendly, real, analogue sounds and playing. By the way, the harmonies are superb.

It is not all good times on this album, not at all, I mean the songs are about burglars for goodness sake, and putting lard on drainpipes to stop them getting in – did Steve really do that – smear lard on the drainpipe, in a surreal Father Ted Neil Hanlon moment? I guess it would work! It sounds true when Steve sings it.

So on Safe as Houses there is a theme of security: security of your physical space, and security of your body, mind and soul. You can hear the tragedy of life experiences juxtaposed against the catchy choruses; amidst the yarns, and sprightly dawns, roam dark tales of burglars, robbery by strangers, and the theft of your girl by your best friend. And then, yes, even then, when you have got the one that you want, watch out - she will haunt you!

5 stars *****

Sorry for Nothing. Carling Academy. Newcastle upon Tyne. November 27th 2007.

Some people dash off from the football early and miss the winning goal... sometimes if you dont get to a gig early and you miss the support act and the of the bunch!

In this their first trip on to the Carling main stage, Sorry For Nothing stepped t breach and filled it with aplomb. This 7-song set was a blast of heavy riffs and lashings of futuristic doom. The first scorching metal riff of the prophetic S.M.S. (complete with its dark scream chorus of radiation error dragging you down) laid down a canny marker. This is not some CND peace white dove type trip - nope, these are hard and heavy tracks with graphic lyrics with images of an apocalyptic future.

If you rate a band on its rhythm, then the Nothings have got some engine. John powers the drums like a man possessed by behind the Stu driving bass grooves and that gives the 3-piece Nothings serious on-stage clout. They look like men on a mission to spread a rock groove gospel across the world.

With tracks about sea monsters and mythical beasts, you might call the Nothings kind of animalistic (probably best not to say that to them in person). Their set featured 4 songs off the debut Reverse Evolution album where animal and mythical tales of weird creatures are held up as a mirror to human behaviour – Rob points the way to a world where vampires attack, apes rise up, and statues come to life. Its bold, heavy, edgy, thumping rock with a strong hint of the macabre.

dark rock MP3 SFN picture.

At times, the sounds a retro trip back to early Sabbath – it is dark black metal but it also comes with a mangled-iron gothic hue (e.g. on Witchfinder). Their lyrical portents of doom are welded on to some stupendous instrumental breaks. Whilst there is space to breathe, Reverse Evolution throttles along and there is something cathartic about being able to scream along to tracks like Swallow Your Soul! In our throwaway times, these tracks are worth hanging on to. Sorry for Nothing are seriously heavy!

The second support act, Swedish trip-switch rockers Truckfighter were also well worth seeing - a majestic set of tunes and some incredible bouncing on stage! The main act Fu Manchu barely got out of first gear with their own brand of Californian stoner rock; they were okay but only okay Tonight was a tale of 2 support acts, Truckfighter and Sorry For Nothing proved why you shouldn’t miss the first bands on!

Reviewer: Steve Newman.


Rory Mcleod review.

Alnwick Playhouse. Wednesday, September 5th 2007. Rory Mcleod, one of the UK's greatest folk troubadours, turned up on a beautiful late summer evening to entrance an enthusiastic audience at the Playhouse. Entering from the left hand side of the seats, a gorgeous flurry of harmonica notes floated round and upwards as Rory instantly connected with the crowd.As a performer Mcleod excels at making a very personal connection with his audience. In the intro to the harmonica tune Baksheesh Dance Rory cracks a joke about the CIA and South America and soon we’re travelling with him all around the world from Turkey to Iran, and on to have some Scrambled Eggs with him in Wales.

Mcleod’s mastery of the political song has been apparent ever since his groundbreaking first album Angry Love with its awesome blues stomp opener: Farewell to Welfare; tonight he confirms it, delivering a beautiful melody and haunting lyrics in a sumptuous version of the Emperor’s New Clothes from his Brave faces album released in 2005.

Mcleod lilts and story-tells, taking us on a ride on his multi-cultural rainbow bus round the world and back. On the way we he shows us birth and death and some of the pain and joy in-between (in Huge Sky he tells the tale of a Gastarbeiter who jumped from a window in Germany rather than return to persecution in Turkey). The trip is also an intimate flick through his family photo album: Conception Song, London Kisses and the incredibly touching The Wind is Getting Stronger (about his Grandma) tell us of his nearest and dearest and throughout his two sets there’s an incredibly warm intimacy to his performance.

The rhythms in an Orkney-inspired folk instrumental are infectious and the Ska feel of many of his other tunes kept my foot tapping throughout. I’m also struck tonight by the way in which Rory’s voice has developed; his live voice has a lush mid-tone to it, and he’s got a great falsetto. He opens his heart up again on Too Old for the Orphanage and by the end of the world tour, Rory has taken us to Russia, Iraq, Mexico (Mariachis Love Song) and more. When the time comes for a reluctant Mcleod to put down his guitar and finally leave the stage, he’s singing: When I go alone… would you come with me? Rory, the answer’s yes!

radio artist image CD cover

Radio interview: Carl Stiansen
Artist/Group: Rory Mcleod

Broadcast Date: 01/10/2007

An incredible outbreak of spoon playing, have a listen hear to Rory Mcleod spoon player extraordinaire!

Rory clip
Listen button for Chevstar song clip.  

Johnny Dickinson.

Wed. 26th October, Alnwick Playhouse. Johnny played a beautiful set of slide-guitar and finger-picked blues that took us on a global trip from Mongolian yurts, laid-back Hawaii, India, and even down the terraced pit rows of the northumbrian mining village of Pegswood. The man's a true bluesmaster. Johnny's got a unique feel for British folk in both interpretation and voice.

Johnny's vintage blend included his own classic tracks like 'Beach Road' and new favourites like 'Map of the World' and tunes from his delightful Northumbrian 'Border Ballads' album. The Ballads set consists of tunes composed by Johnny featuring the sumptuous words of Algernon Charles Swinburne, as demonstrated on 'A fragment of a Border Ballad'.

The show included a wonderful rendition of Black jack Davy, a catchy rendition of Jock O'Hazeldene, some haunting improvised airs and yes, scottish pipes on the slide guitar as Johnny played a stunningly beautiful version of the Drunken Pipers. Johnny Dickinson's a Northumbrian gem. Acoustic roots music of the very finest quality. If you missed him - go and treasure him next time he's playing! Johnny Dickinson, slide guitarist and songwriter Johnny Dickinson, slide guitarist and songwriter, Northumberland. Johnny Dickinson blues and folk music.

Amber Souls, Newcastle, May 13th, Cluny Warehouse:

Seeing the spaced out Amber Souls for the second time made me think: this is the kind of music place where astral plane dwellers must fly excitedly down to wor own earth level onthe backof an amber soul! The band's simply awesome sound just resonates onwards and upwards in a heavenly direction... they are truly the masters of the molten guitar riff, and they know how to funk it up. Yep, the Souls play seriously rockin head music that shifts the body to grand heights. Touches of manchester, cool lyrics, le funk, San Fran and tripped-up Beatles psychedleia a la Kula Shaker (without the o/d on Shiva) all wrapped up in gorgeous paisley. No idea what all the tracks were, hell I was much too busy dancing to write. Proper gig!

Funkadelic, Sage, Gateshead. July 14th:

When 70 year old blokes stride on stage in nappies you might be fogiven for thinking where the hell am I? In the space of one song, the whole place was on its feet as Funkadelic morphed into Parliament, and back again, via funk shaman Geordie Clinton. Who says a funk band can't play rock? Now we can say we really do know what the funk is. Awesome first 2 hours spanned classics like Maggot Brian and Cosmic Slop, and the new viagra sound of Bounce. The last hour and its Butlins style 1950's rock n roll segue and the humungous guitar solo (i know keepin it real but...) were surreal and lang, as in long/dull. You're xcused that Mister George Clinton, Legend, Funk master, Parliament leader and Funkadelic conductor - you rocked!

Geordie Clinton, Funkadelic. Who wants to be a Funkadelic?

Sonic Attack, Green Gathering. August 4th:

Now then, did I just enter the tardis or what? I swear there's 6 or so ex-members of Hawkwind up there with Nick Turner on sax and lead vox, there's definitely 2 drummers. You might think it's a recipe for disaster but, my god, these senior sonic metal alchemists rock! I did this (see mime action... an up and down movement of the head, and a sort of side stepping dance, that's got nowt to do with shoegazing) for hours and loved it. It was magic! Yep. They played, and played, and played, with Nik Turner belting out the sax riffs and I swear Bob Clavert was there on stage in spirit. They played all sorts of the classic 70's Hawkwind stuff, and without rust, or Dave Brock (who moreorless fired everyone on stage tonight). Sonic Attack, Brainstorm, Silver Machine, Spirit of the Age, Douglas in the Jungle and Ejection have never sounded so good. I tell ya, you should a been there, Brian Eno would have loved the amount of know twiddling. The Masters of the Universe are back in the soily earthy world of festivals. Rejoice!

Nik Turner rock master from Hawkwind to Galaktikos

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