FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: ARE YOU AWAKE YET?
Are you awake yet? Then let us begin. On Tuesday night I was among an enthusiastic crowd at The Bedford in downtown Balham (gateway to the south – yes, I remember, get on with it) to watch Tony Moore perform his awesome concept album in the making, AWAKE. Tony has enjoyed a fruitful career in the music industry from playing in an early line up of Iron Maiden to working with several bands, including Cutting Crew as its keyboard player in the 80’s, plus writing and performing as a singer-songwriter. He is a spirited champion of new, emerging talent via both his radio work and his curation of The Bedford as a venue that is very much the home of new music in the capital.
Photo of Tony Moore by Kevin England
He describes the concept of AWAKE as “a journey to discover truth, meaning and love, in a world that’s gone crazy”. Flying in the face of the current mode for single and EP releases, it currently extends to 15 tracks and opens with a stellar 9-minuter which acts as a kind of overture to the rest. You may hear echoes of Pink Floyd in its Division Bell-like grandeur. The full works goes far beyond that simple, opening comparison though; each song echoes across decades of personal memories and reflections, knitting together to create a whole that is greater than its individual parts. But to see how it all starts, here's a recording of the opening title track, performed live by Tony back in February.
You do really have to see AWAKE to appreciate its invention, musical richness and theatricality. The good news is that you can catch the show back at The Bedford on Wed 22 December. It’s free entry but you need to reserve places HERE. The full works will hopefully be released as a double album next year. When it finally lands, you will indeed awaken to something quite special.
Photo of Nadia Sheikh by Birgit Murd
We have followed the fortunes of British-Spanish indie rock artiste Nadia Sheikh for the past year and I am pleased to report that her new EP Undefined is now out. Having previously previewed the singles “IDWK (I Don’t Wanna Know)” and “Love is Undefined”, she has now shared “Deep Waters” which along with “Golden” completes the 4-track offering. It was Nadia Sheikh’s innate ability to blend the anthemic with a more tender lyricism has set her apart from the many following the indie pop-rock pathway. It is what secured her and her band a support slot with Stereophonics on its arena tour in 2020 and will hopefully see her gracing some major festival stages next summer.
“Deep Waters” again shows the tender, reflective side of Nadia’s music, delivered with a soulful, yearning undernote. It is the only song off the EP not to be penned in the last 18 months, a period which saw her enforced absence from the playing arena translated into a productive time for her songwriting and development of the band's sound. Conversely, Nadia wrote “Deep Waters” aged just 16, yet its mood fits very well with the more recent songs. It charts the problems in a relationship between two quite disparate people, how they are criticised and how despite best efforts, their relationship is unlikely to work out. Autobiographical or not, like all her work it’s a song that will resonate with many people.
Moving next to a solid rock vein, we have also encountered The Kut here before. Perhaps you will recall when – clue, Christmas! The Kut is the alter ego of the multi-talented Princess Maha. She now boasts the support of a seven-strong collective of female musicians – three of whom, Alison Wood on guitar, bassist Jennifer Sanin and drummer Diana Bartmann join her here on the first single from The Kut’s Arts Council-funded second album, expected next June. Fuelled by that welcome funding and a solid US distribution deal, The Kut has now shared its first single from the album in the shape of “Animo”.
“Animo” is classic Kut, channelling spirited defiance amid its hard driving beats and uncompromising lyrics, delivered with characteristic gusto by Maha. It was written in support of the recent women’s rights demonstrations here and the accompanying video depicts splendid, if slightly scary, solidarity between the assembled supporters. It’s great to see a band like The Kut getting wider recognition, evidenced by the US deal and a headline appearance at the Isle of Wight Festival’s River Stage in September. Clearly a Kut above.
Photo of Denney by Kevin England
We’ll dial down the volume now for two singer-songwriters who, though quite different vocally, would readily describe themselves as purveyors of sad songs. First up is Emma Denney who of course is no stranger to these columns, having now recorded the equivalent of an album’s worth of songs, releasing each one as a single. The latest, which came out last week, is titled “I Can't Be Your Maybe”. Denney’s lyrics may read like diary entries but she doesn’t always write about herself. On this occasion, though, the song written during lockdown last year and produced by ambient artiste KaizanBlu, who also helmed an earlier song of Denney’s called “Glue”, takes its cue from a personal experience.
“I Can't Be Your Maybe” is signature Denney with a title that clearly says what’s in the tin. It is based on a past 'relationship' that never actually developed because of a commitment by-pass by the subject and related issues. Emma Denney is always open and authentic in her songwriting and this one, like many of her best songs, puts me in mind of Essex songstress Kate Walsh (a compliment of course!) It’s not just her fragrant vocal tone and flair for melody but the honesty she brings to describing something that was clearly a difficult and confidence-draining experience. As with all Denney’s songs, I see her peers finding it easy to relate these emotions and it is great that she is now contributing more of her own ideas to the overall production.
Photo of Sarah Goodson by Annick Wolfers
The second of our ‘sad songwriters’ is one new to Fifty3 Fridays: Sarah Goodson, originally from Barnard Castle who coincidentally has a connection to the aforementioned Kate Walsh too. Her recent song, “Cold Room”, was recorded with Tim Bidwell in Brighton, the same producer responsible for Kate Walsh’s breakthrough album in 2007, Tim’s House. Having previously worked under the electronic-flavoured aegis of Oh Sister, Sarah first surfaced under her birth name with an opening single, “The Limes”, in July and has another song in the pipeline, due out next week. But let’s consider “Cold Room” right now.
The first thing that hits you about “Cold Room” is the nuanced quality of Sarah Goodson’s voice, its impressive range and its soulful country inflections. She is as comfortable with the dusky low notes as the sweet high ones. Speaking about the song, Sarah said “I wrote Cold Room having been let down by someone I trusted. I felt betrayed and angry. I wanted to communicate a quiet, bubbling anger. It's a strange thing to love someone and simultaneously be full of rage.” Listening to the song, those emotions are keenly realised, not least in the ironically repeated phrase ‘no one loves me like you’.
Photo of Tony Moore by Kevin England
We opened with news of AWAKE so here is a fitting closure to this week’s Fifty3 Fridays. Tony Moore has a new single out today, “Never Gonna Say Goodbye”, billed as one of the fastest ever commercial releases of a newly written song. The inspirational song was written on 18 October and recorded the following evening while the accompanying video was filmed and edited 7/8 days later to meet the earliest feasible commercial release date. The recording process and video were all undertaken by Tony on his own as he ended up working through the night in his own small studio and didn’t even have time to involve anyone else into the project. “I had a moment of inspiration with this song as I thought about all the people we have to let go of in our lives.” The poignant piano ballad delivers this sentiment wonderfully well.