Presenting…Attic Choir

It’s always great when you hear a new, local band, and think: ‘Yes!’

That’s what happened when I heard Attic Choir, a band who seem to meld post-  rock/maths-rock (whatever you’re calling it this week – and chances are the hipsters are going to have a take on it. Sod ’em.) with that glorious Scottish melancholia that runs through so many of the Scottish acts I’ve written about over the years on this here blog.

Unfortunately, wordpress or this computer are conspiring to make things very difficult, so to hear their awesome track ‘shHAarp’ either head here to their bandcamp  or alternatively head over to God Is In The TV where I have also written about them.




Gig review – The Shires

Finding itself double-booked, 17 Seconds asked a good friend, Dr. J. Sizer, to review The Shires. This is what he reported back…

The Shires, Edinburgh Usher Hall, April 20 2017.

Looking around at the heights of the Usher Hall, any band of whatsoever age might well imagine that they’d arrived when helming a gig in such a venue.  ‘It’s a long way from the Liquid Rooms,’ enthuses singer Crissie Rhodes, ‘Wowzers…!’ 

As the loudspeaker tunes intensified, swelling to the canned sounds of Big & Rich’s raucous ‘Save A Horse’, The Shires took to stage with their impressive aural backing of four young instrumentalists.  The core duo of ‘Cris’ and Ben Earle are a kind of Buckingham Nicks for the Millennial generation, and have indeed produced work modelled on the ‘New Country’ spearheaded by the mid-70s incarnation of Fleetwood Mac.  But their influences go much further into the ironic pop spectrum, as evinced by their covers of Robbie Williams’s ‘Angels’ (fresh from a BBC Chris Evans session as it happens) and the Brothers Gibb gem – retooled and countrified for Kenny and Dolly – ‘Islands In The Stream’. 

With a set of seventeen songs and two encores, The Shires delivered a powerful ‘enhanced’ sort of New – and peculiarly British – Country, further strengthened by an intensive rhythm section which at times evoked Zeppelin (‘Jekyll And Hyde’).  Indeed, Ben and Cris’s close harmonies were well served by their supporting band, with their lead guitarist trading in his Gibson ES335 for a dobro, whilst our rhythm guitar man deftly doubled on pedal steel for a plaintive High Lonesome Sound in the quieter Shires numbers.  Though the Usher Hall audience was genuinely ebullient – The Shires seemed quite touched by the overall vibe – a moment of particular poignancy came with Cris’s ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’ (the band’s current single) which certainly discouraged dry eyes. 

With an American record deal now in effect, a team of proficient Swedish songwriters for collaboration, and new realms to conquer, the Shires are well poised to launch the international phase of their recording and performative career.  This early triumph before a receptive Edinburgh audience – many veterans of that first Liquid Rooms gig of 2015 – may well prove an early milestone.  Though a case of preaching to the converted, Earle and Rhodes do impress with the quality of their musicianship and lyrics which begin to reach beyond the standard Country tropes. 

A very special mention must be made of opening act, nineteen-year old Catherine McGrath, a talented Country aspirant from County Down whose unpretentious songs – an entirely new form of Hurtin’, it would seem – won over those audience members who took a risk (and seats) long before the headliners arrived.  Her self-deprecating style only enhanced the charm of an intriguing new talent which warrants further investigation.

A song for today #44: Cattle & Cane

Today’s track comes from Cattle & Cane, who in ‘Love On Your Hands’ have produced a  song full of yearning and beauty. It’s taken from their forthcoming second album Mirrors, which is released on May 5. The band, led by siblings Joe & Helen Hammill, hail from England’s North-East and while a new name to me, are clearly going to be making a big impact over the next few months.

And if they never produce a song as good as this ever again, still they will have left us with this.

Their forthcoming UK tour dates are as follows:

2nd May Liverpool – Buyers Club

3rd May Glasgow – King Tuts

4th May Gateshead – Sage 2

5th May Birmingham – The Flapper

6th May Leeds – The Wardrobe

7th May Masham – Town Hall

9th May Manchester – Gullivers

10th May Nottingham – Bodega

11th May London – Camden Assembly

12th May Bristol – Louisiana

13th May Cardiff – Clwb Ifor Bach

8th July Tynemouth Priory – Mouth Of The Tyne (supporting Tom Odell)

23rd July Sheffield – Tramlines Festival

19th August County Durham – Hardwick Live Festival

A song for today #43: Hackney Colliery Band

I’ve long been a fan of unusual covers. And the Hackney Colliery Band’s cover of Nirvana’s ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ certainly ticks that box.

It’s by no means a novelty cover. What it does is to transform Nirvana’s 1993 hit single into a dark jazz track. Though it loses the vocals, it maintains the spirit, mystery and angst of the original.

It’s taken from the Hackney Colliery Band’s forthcoming live album, entitled, umm, Live. This will also include cover versions of Blackstreet’s ‘No Diggety’ and Toto’s ‘Africa.’ The album is released on May 12, and two weeks later, the band will headline London’s KOKO.


…and in case you thought this was a one-off, their version of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Rehab’ is pretty special, too:




The return of Playing House

Last year, London’s Playing House released their debut EP, New Haircut, a three-track release of joy. It was utterly brilliant, and two of the tracks from that EP, ‘Grapefruit’ and ‘New Haircut’ made the annual Festive Fifty list here at the end of the year.

So, a year later and the trio present us with their second set, another three-track EP entitled Jocelyn. Yet again, it’s another thing of Joy (capital letter intended). It maintains the spirit of that glorious debut EP, and sees a slightly glossier feel, which in no way detracts from the sound. This is perhaps due to the increased use of keyboards, much more to the forefront than before.

‘Jelly Legs’ is the first track to do the rounds here, and it’s musically more-ish, typical of a band who deserve to be stars. They remain in thrall to the spirit of the eighties, but the end result is a fresh feel. They are awesome live, too – another return to Scotland soon would be much appreciated!