Artists

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Supporting Vulnerable and Disadvantaged people access to the Folk Arts!

Artists Biographies

Martin McNeill www.martinmcneill.co.uk

Friday 14th April 2017

 

MARTIN McNEILL is acclaimed for his dynamic slide guitar playing and soulful vocals. He works in solo, duo, trio and full band format.

He hosts Monday Blues at Peggy Sue's, Leigh-on-Sea, playing and singing with guest musicians each week.

Martin McNeill's Bottleneck Blues are regulars at Southend's famous Railway Hotel. Other venues the band play include the Smack in Old Leigh. The varying line-up includes West Weston on harmonica, Tim Huskisson on piano, JJ Zarbo on double bass and Roy Webber or Marc Cecil on drums, sometimes with other guests.

Martin has gigged with many British and American blues artists including Leo Bud Welch, U P Wilson, Chris Corcoran, Ben Waters, Ben Tyzack, Mississippi MacDonald and Dave Ferra. When he first started playing as a teenager, Martin supported visiting US blues including one of his biggest influences, Fred McDowell, and star duo Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee.

Martin plays most often as a solo performers. He also plays guitar for Cambridge-based singer Ruby Florence and does duo sessions with some of the finest players on the blues scene: West Weston, Tim Huskisson, JJ Zarbo, Tim Aves, Ramon Goose, Richie Milton, Katie Bradley and others.

 

WHAT THEY SAY...

"A slide guitarist par excellence, Martin was the perfect man to put us in the right mood. He finished an all-too-brief set with an excellent rendition of Chain of Fools...it was nice to be reminded that it was Aretha Franklin who first introduced us to this Don Covay number."

TONY BELL, GRAPEVINE MAGAZINE (on Martin's appearance supporting the James Hunter Six at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich).

"ONE OF THIS COUNTRY'S FINEST BOTTLENECK BLUES GUITARISTS"

STEPHEN FOSTER, PROMOTER AND BBC RADIO PRESENTER

WILKO JOHNSON ON MARTIN McNEILL'S BOTTLENECK BLUES:

"They're a bloody good band. The whole of the band is really good. They're playing proper blues, which is quite a rare thing."

Wilko's comments come in an interview with Dave Collins for Level 4 magazine, when Wilko mentions watching the Bottlenecks at the Railway Hotel. Dave says "they never rehearse" (true), to which Wilko responds: "My philosophy exactly! With this kind of music if it gets too rigid you lose a lot. You've got to have a bit of floppiness in there -- let it happen as it happens."

"It was a great gig"

JILL WARD, Brasenose Arms, Cropredy

"Tonight at Peggy Sue's Music Bar, 1063 London Road, Leigh-on-Sea, was really special with Martin McNeill and Steve West Weston playing two blindingly good sets. This place is a little gem of a music venue - great atmosphere and really friendly people!!"

JOHN CAMPLING

"Wonderful solo offering...very fine album."

Radio presenter HOWLING DICK

'Excellent solo acoustic set by Martin McNeill, who really held the audience. At times you could hear a pin drop. Check out Martin's new album." MIKE LIGHTFOOT

"Thank you for putting on such a great band together and the excellent performance. I'm so pleased that we got a good audience to do it justice."

PAUL MUNSON

"Martin McNeill and Ramon Goose amazed us at the Tuesday Night Music Club with a demonstration of the best in acoustic blues. Ramon and Martin were fabulous. I was quite honestly stunned by just how good."

RICHARD DUNNING

"Great gig at the Railway on Sunday...just love the vibe"

LYNDA SYLVESTER

"What a great time we had at Peggy Sue's"

KATH PEACHEY

 

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Spikedrivers www.spikedrivers.co.uk/ Friday 12th May 2017

 

The Spikedrivers

One of the most original, innovative and exciting bands around, their combination of gutsy slide guitar, rock-solid bass, infectious grooves and highly distinctive vocals, creates a sound that is uniquely their own. They take you on a journey, from southern juke-joints and lazy front porches to the huge open spaces of dust bowls and railroad tracks disappearing into the distance.....

 

ben tyzack: guitar, vocals & harmonica

Born in London but raised in the deep south of the United States, Ben’s musical style reflects these experiences. His guitar playing is an intoxicating blend, from the raw delta blues of Robert Johnson to the powerful soundscapes of Jimmy Page. This combined with a soulful voice and commanding stage presence completes the picture of a very unique artist. In 1992 Ben formed the Spikedrivers, they have released seven albums including many of his original songs. He has also composed music for Channel 4’s ‘Car Wars’ and performed with Lee Sankey, Roger Askew and the Royal Shakespeare Company. “I’m very lucky to have been brought up in a musical family. As well as my dad playing trumpet. My mom (Patzy Tyzack) plays piano. One of her musical passions is Ragtime. Hearing this music as well as early Jazz was definitely a big influence. There’s quite a cross over from Ragtime piano to fingerpicking guitar. For instance: although you can’t get the wide range of notes and harmonies that you can on a piano, the syncopated rhythms and chord structures suit the guitar well. It was great to have some of that music in my head before even learning how to play.”

 

constance redgrave: bass - vocals - washboard - percussion - flute

Born in Los Angeles of Native American roots, Constance naturally transferred her genetic tribal rhythms into the simple, rock solid bass lines that are her trademark and her ability as a compelling vocalist and percussionist perfectly complements this talent. Now living in London she has played with Otis Grand, Steve Cropper, Anson Funderburgh, Hank Wangford, Chris Jagger. “I have had the pleasure of playing with quite a list of people and bands. These include Otis Grand, the legendary Steve Cropper, Anson Funderburgh, Debbie Davis, Misdemeanor, Hank Wangford, Chris Jagger, Pierre La Rue, Wes McGhee, Companions of the Rosy Hours, Audio Murphy, Boo Hewerdine and The Colin John Band.”

 

maurice mcelroy: drums - percussion - vocals.

“I started playing when I was 13 years old. My father had played drums in dance bands in Northern Ireland. So when rock’n’roll came along and everybody wanted to be in a band, I decided to be a drummer. The first band I listened to were the Shadows. I’d see them backing Cliff (when they were still called The Drifters) on TV shows like 6-5 Special and Boy Meets Girl. They’d be on with bands like Joe Brown and his Bruvvers and Billy Fury but I was always more interested in the musicians than the singers. Then on Sundays they would show musicals with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and musicians like Gene Krupa and Benny Goodman would sometimes appear so I started listening to them as well. For a long while I was the house band drummer for the main blues jam in North London. First at The Weavers Arms in Stoke Newington, and later the World’s End in Finsbury Park. Since joining Ben and Constance I feel that I’ve really begun to open up as a musician. Aside from drums, I’ve been getting more into different percussion instruments and I learned to sing (Thank you Melanie Harrold). I’ve also started to write songs and have some input into arrangements. Right this minute I’m learning to play guitar and all I can say about that is I have very sore fingers.”

 

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John Verity

Friday 14th July 2017 https://www.johnverity.com/

 

John Verity began his music career in the early 1960's, playing guitar in various local groups around his home town of Bradford, Yorkshire, until he was offered a full time gig with a pro band the ‘Richard Kent Style’. Soon gigging – sometimes twice a night, 7 nights a week all across the UK and Europe, the band became tight in the way that only a hard working band can.

 

‘My first band with a real rhythm section (Al Powell on drums & Harvey Rose on bass) that sounded to me, as good as the American records we tried to emulate. The band was a six piece complete with brass section, and soon in addition to the R&B material in the set there was some Chicago Blues to get my teeth into - amazing!’

 

By the spring of 1970 the Kent Style had morphed into ‘Tunnel’. Living and working in the US, doing prestigious support slots with many of the big names of the day including Jimi Hendrix (July 5th 1970 – 2 days after JV’s 21st birthday), Mountain, Canned Heat, Savoy Brown, and Janis Joplin. Very soon, Tunnel would morph into the very first John Verity Band, formed in Miami later that year. On his return to England in 1971, John secured a contract with producer Steve Rowland to record his first solo album for ABC Dunhill/Probe records, 'John Verity Band', which was released in the spring of 1973. John is pictured right, with Steve Rowland and Head of Probe records Dave Chapman at the signing of the contract.

 

Whilst on tour promoting the album, JV was spotted by Rod Argent who was looking for new lead vocalist for his band following the departure of Russ Ballard. John eventually joined Argent late in 1973 and there followed a period of intense recording and touring until the band decided to come off the road late in 1976. Argent never did go back on the road, and decided to disband, at which point John became involved with various new projects both as Artist and Record Producer.

 

First of all, along with Bob Henrit and Jim Rodford he formed Phoenix, which soon signed to CBS records. The original line-up recorded the first album and toured Europe before recruiting Ray Minhinnet to share the guitar-playing duties in time for the second album scheduled for release on Rocket Records. During this time Jim Rodford left to join the Kinks, and the line-up remained a 3 piece for the recording of In Full View for Charisma Records. John produced the Phoenix albums and co-produced the Charlie album ‘Good Morning America’ as well as the first Saxon album during this time, and decided to divide his time between sessions and record production whilst Bob Henrit teamed up with Jim Rodford once again by joining the Kinks.

 

The next few years were spent in recording studios throughout the world, producing, playing guitar, or doing backup vocals with various acts including Motorhead, Tank, Ringo Starr, Russ Ballard, Colin Blunstone, Brian Connolly, John Parr, BowWowWow and The Searchers amongst many others, until late in 1981 when PRT Records MD Matt Haywood asked JV to record a comeback album.

 

By now living in his native Yorkshire, John had built his own 38-track studio achieved by synchronising together 24 and 16 track tape machines - state of the art at the time, and had moved into full time record production. The Matt Haywood offer meant that JV could get back out on the road again to promote the album, and touring always seemed to bring out fresh ideas... "Interrupted Journey", released under the name Verity in 1982, was highly acclaimed in the UK, USA and Europe and successfully relaunched Johns performing career, as he once again took to the road. John was approached by many big name acts for recording and performing projects during this period - Mike Rutherford of Genesis wrote three songs for inclusion on JV’s next set of recording sessions, and both Keith Emerson and Greg Lake used John on their current recording projects.

 

The next two albums "Truth Of The Matter" and "Rock Solid" were also well received, and John soon had offers to join various name bands including MSG, Ted Nugent, and Asia which he declined, deciding instead to come off the road to record an album with newly reformed Zombies. This project took the best part of a year and was mostly recorded at Mountain Studios, Montreux, Switzerland and finished in London... After a short break John was soon back on the road again with John Coghlan's Diesel Band (Status Quo), in the UK and Europe, before reforming his own Band for similar venues and recording here in the UK. In 1992 John decided to re-locate, away from his native Yorkshire to rural Bedfordshire and closer to friends from the Argent days.

 

Since the move south the JV Band gigs have continued, with different line-ups chosen from a shortlist of fine musicians. At the 1994 Manchester Festival "Fender Stratocaster 40th Anniversary" concert, JV guested, along with many Rock Legends past and present including Sonny Curtis, Frankie Miller and Rory Gallagher. Johns performance of "Stay With Me Baby" was one of the high spots of the evening, bringing the capacity crowd at the Manchester Free Trade Hall to its feet!

 

During this period JV also did vocal sessions for 3 episodes of the Granada TV series "Full Stretch", (1991) and another guest spot with the 'Strat Pack', for the Australia Day (1995) celebrations at the Hippodrome in London's West End. 2000 saw a major gigging project with a 32 date UK tour, opening the show on the Jools Holland Sex Jazz and Rock'n'Roll tour at major venues including Manchester Opera House, Birmingham Symphony Hall, and the London Albert Hall. After this, it was back to his regular gigging routine. Festivals across the UK and mainland Europe, recording and writing sessions keep the man busy.

 

JV always said that live work was his first love and that holds as true today as ever. After playing the Cambridge Rock Festival in the summer of 2009 JV and the band went into the studio once more – The resulting recordings were released April 2010: VERITY – A Phoenix Still Rising... yet another stage in JV's amazing journey... The plan was for Phoenix to go back on the road, but things didn't quite work out so JV repackaged some of the tracks and added 3 new originals, to form 'Verity - Rise Like The Phoenix' instead. Back on the road the band worked solidly until mid-2011 when JV went back into the studio. This time the aim was to record some of John's favourite blues material - some of which goes back to the very earliest bands that he had played in. Bob Henrit, Steve Rodford, Mark Griffiths, Andy Childs and Keith Weir were asked to work on these tracks at different times during a busy few months to complete the album in time for release in December 2011. 'It's a Mean Old Scene' is Verity's strongest so far, and new dates are in the diary - early 2012 and the band is on the road again... first major date being the GB Rock & Blues Festival, which video'd successfully to provide a lasting record of this excellent gig... featured musicians in the JV Band for this one were Steve Rodford on drums, and bassist Mark Griffiths. 2012 was to prove a landmark year for JV in a number of ways - first of all a chance meeting with guitar guru Trev Wilkinson during which John impressed Trev with his ideas on guitar design, led to the development and release of the JV Signature model guitar. To give the guitar its full title - the 'Fret King Black Label Corona JV Signature model'.

 

Whilst the guitar was in development, John was inspired to try to complete all the links in the audio chain, and together with amp specialists began work on an amplifier worthy of the JV stamp of approval. The finished amp was soon a fixture of John's live setup - an all valve (tube) design following traditional values but with just the ingredients needed to get the 'sound in my head' as JV is quoted saying, on trying the combination of his new signature guitar and amp. The final 'icing on the cake' in this search for the perfect tone is the specially voiced loudspeaker made to JV specification with the help of Paul Seago at Tayden Loudspeakers in the UK.

 

2014 found the band on the road as usual, interspersed with JV appearances to promote the JV signature products at music trade shows/ events, and the new album Tone Hound looks set to follow the success of It's a mean old scene, which charted in late 2013.

 

Next up in 2014 JV went into the studio the record tracks for 'TONE HOUND on the road to Corona' and took this one on the road with the band, to an ever expanding group of followers across the UK.

 

2015 saw the band in the studio recording live for the 'Boske' album, an opportunity for JV, Bob Henrit and Bob Skeat to work together in the studio just laying live tracks down like in the old days!! Bianca Kinane added some amazing vocals, and Tom Wilson performed keyboard duties on this entertaining set.

 

Fast forward to May 2016 and the release of 'My Religion'. Surely JV's strongest to date, with 6 of JV's own songs together with 4 of his favourite covers. For the first time in ages, this JV album is released on Vinyl - a double album with bonus tracks in a gatefold sleeve.

 

2017 looks like being JV and the Band's busiest year to date with shows across the length and breadth of the UK.

 

As with 2016 the focus in the New Year will be on shows in the UK, in order to consolidate the progress made during the previous year. Any spare time will be spent in the studio writing/recording for the next JV album, scheduled for spring 2018...

 

 

 

Johnny Dickinson

Friday 8th September 2017

 

Northumberland has always had one of the UK’s proudest and most distinctive folk music traditions with many internationally recognised exponents. In addition to that, the southern boundary of the rugged and historic county - Tyneside - has a close affinity with, and a strong following for, American blues which dates back at least five decades to the halcyon days of the seminal Club A Go Go and visits by Muddy, Wolf, Sonny Boy and the like.

 

Slide-guitarist/singer/writer, Johnny Dickinson, from the county town of Morpeth, was subjected to both elements in his formative years and the resultant musical alloy has been burnished painstakingly ever since. In the early ‘80s, Kerrang magazine - a standard-bearer for blues-rock rather than roots music - tagged Johnny’s first band, Splitcrow, a “most likely to succeed” outfit, a view borne-out by an impending major UK tour. After moving to London he became a founder member of the influential twin-guitar and harmonica- powered (and multi-award winning) band, Paul Lamb & the Kingsnakes. Also in London he did stints on steel guitar with rockabilly band The Moonshine Boys. Ultimately returning to home turf to form the wildly eclectic Hillbillies From Outer Space – an idiosyncratic amalgam of all that had gone before, and then some !

 

Since 2004, Dickinson has largely pursued a solo career, a format he appears to be totally at ease with. Of course, it helps if the music makes a lasting impression ! His solo debut, Castles & Old Kings, certainly did that. BBC Radio 2 took notice at once, with Dickinson picking-up guest spots on the Mike Harding and Mark Radcliffe shows and, proving his versatility, recorded a live broadcast session for Paul Jones Blues show. UK tours with the Australian guitar-phenomenon, Tommy Emmanuel, then Kelly Joe Phelps and an Irish tour with John Martyn spread the word quickly. Followed by shows in Denmark, The Netherlands, Croatia, Italy, Germany, Poland and Austria with players like John Renbourn, Louis Winsberg, Jan Ackermann and Thom Bresh (virtuoso son of Merle Travis) among many others. Back in the studio, Dickinson fitted in a side project for the Northumbrian Anthology (an aural encyclopaedia of the region’s folk music) and the resulting album, Border Ballads, a composite of Johnny’s music and the words of the Victorian writer and poet, Algernon Charles Swinburne, was highly praised, winning MOJO’s Folk Album of the Month in the process.

 

The release of the all-original, English Summer (Hard Road Recording) which included the core of Kate Rusby’s band, coincided with his appearances at the 2005 Cambridge Folk Festival at the end of July and the success of his live performances there – on all three stages – was underlined by the fact that the on-site CD stall sold-out the entire stock of hundreds of copies of English Summer over just two days ! He was nominated (one of only four) in the Horizon category of the 2005 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and was chosen again, for Musician of The Year, in 2006 !

 

The momentum developed further by the release of Dickinson’s live album, Sketches From the Road (Hard Road Recording), in March 2006 and his choice of material was as eclectic as ever. He embellished his own songs with some real gems. KC Douglas’ classic, Mercury Blues, is slowed down to cruising speed. The baddest man in the West, John Hardy, is juxtaposed with two British traditional songs, Handsome Molly and Jock O’Hazeldine. Jackson C Frank’s opus, Blues Run the Game, gets a welcome revival, too. The Negro-spiritual, I Wish I Was In Heaven Settin’ Down (Long White Robe), a regular fixture in Johnny’s live set, is also on the album. The immaculate slide-guitar – evoking memories of Cooder, Lindley and the peerless Blind Willie Johnson – topped-off by full-ranged vocals is an irresistible package. This guy has nurtured the music he grew-up with but he is not afraid to play around with the form or tempo. Bluegrass, blues and folk with a Caribbean skank or middle-eastern edge, seering slide-guitar and vocal range to match.

 

Next up was his album, Hilo Town (Hard Road Recording). The record again showed-off his flair for arrangement. Using a tight band, he described his work as “ a collection of traditional music from England, Scotland, Ireland and America. As usual, I have arranged the material in my own fashion, drawing inspiration from many sources including Sol Hoopi, Elmore James, Gypsy-jazz, Celtic Pipers and Mariachi bands, Peggy Lee, Nic Jones and Martin Carthy.” Now that’s eclectic !

 

A five-month US tour with Andy McKee took him from Lakes to Louisiana and coast to coast and ensured that he visited first-hand many of the places he had been singing about for years. It won him countless new fans, too.

 

 

 

 

 

"Five years ago I started chemo treatment for a lymphoma , 8 months later I ended up in hospital with Guillain Barre Syndrome . That kept me in hospital for 6 months. Now I’m guessing that’s what most people have heard about and the reason why I’ve received your many kind comments for which I’m very grateful .

 

Movin’ on into early 2013 my lymphoma got busy again so it was chemo again and I’ve been on treatment ever since ! This combined with a naturally idle disposition means I’m not very consistent with anything ,except for takin’ meds. Anyway I’ve regained an interest in music and have started playin’ lots this year. I think I’ll post a video up of some playin’ if anyone fancies that. Go to website!" Johnny.

 

 

Brooks Williams www.brookswilliams.com

Friday 10th February 2017

 

 

Brooks Williams, from Statesboro, Georgia USA (the town made famous by country-blues legend Blind Willie McTell and his song Statesboro Blues), creates a super-charged acoustic music that draws heavily on both his blues and Americana roots. The resulting sound can be described as “Blues-icana,” that confluence of crossroads where American roots music comes together.



Keys And Chords describes Williams' music as "A beautiful fusion of blues, old country and a touch Americana.” fRoots says Williams "really rocks, stirring up soulful Americana, full-on blues and tasty rootsy grooves." Like drinking whiskey from a honey jar, you get both the sweet and the bite. Resonator slide and acoustic Piedmont picking lay down the groove while Williams' laid-back low-country vocal floats over top.



Brooks Williams got his start in the clubs and bars around New York and Boston (the same music scene that years earlier sparked the careers of Bonnie Raitt and Chris Smither). There, playing 5-6 nights a week, he developed his signature roots sound. From the very beginning and still to this day, audiences are often heard asking, how can one guitar and one voice sound like a full band?



In 2013 Williams was nominated best male vocalist by the UK’s foremost roots-music mavens, Spiral Earth. AmericanaUK says, “he has a beautiful voice that you just melt into.” He has that way of delivering a song that plays with the line the way a slide guitarist teases the notes from the strings.

And he’s one helluva good guitar player, ranked in the Top 100 Acoustic Guitarists. The San Antonio Light says that Williams is a “fret monster who has to be seen to be believed!” Whether playing his trusty National resonator slide guitar, his road-worn Collings acoustic or his tobacco-burst Washburn hollow-body, this guy knows a thing or two about the guitar. Over the years he’s picked alongside Taj Mahal, John Hammond, Paul Jones, Little Feat, Maria Muldaur, Shawn Colvin and Leo Kottke, to name but a few.



With twenty-two albums to his name, including Brooks' Blues (2016), My Turn Now (2016) and Shreveport Sessions (2014), Williams has recorded for labels as diverse as Signature Sounds, Green Linnet Records, Reveal Records, Solid Air Records, as well as his own Red Guitar Blue Music. He’s learned the studio trade first-hand working with roots music producers like Colin Linden (Blackie And The Rodeo Kings, Bruce Cockburn) in Toronto and Phil Madeira (Buddy and Julie Miller, Emmylou Harris) in Nashville. His music has featured on the BBC (UK), RTE (Ireland), CBC (Canada) and NPR (USA) and has charted on the FOLKDJ stations. He can also be heard on Satellite and Internet radio throughout the world. WUMB-FM radio in Boston (USA) voted him one of their Top 100 Artists.



Brooks Williams tours relentlessly in the US, UK & Europe. Recent appearances include Celtic Connections (Scotland), Meneer Frits (Netherlands), Cambridge Folk Festival (England), Falcon Ridge Festival (USA), Cathedral Quarter Festival (N. Ireland), and Winnipeg Folk Festival (Canada). All in all, thousands of gigs over thousands of miles!

 

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Dave Ferra www.daveferra.co.uk

Friday 13th January 2017

Blues, Spirituals and ragtimes with guitar, slide and rack harmonica. Playing in England and the Continent he has supported The Blues Band, Kirk Fletcher, Paul Lamb, Babajack, Nine Below Zero, Billy Walton and The Spikedrivers amongst others and is a regular at London's Ain't nothin but the Blues Bar.

Reviews

" ..an entertaining acoustic set from Dave Ferra. His accomplished rack harp, fingerpicking and slide interspersed with a gentle, self -depricating commentary worked well in an intimate setting." - Blues in Britain, Review of The Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival

 

"Wonderful stuff...Great man, great voice, great everything!" - Doug Welch, BBC Radio Kent

 

"Acoustic Bluesman par excellence" - Blues Matters

 

“a wonderful acoustic album….oozing quality and style”– Blues in the South

 

"Great evening, loved their performance. They had me smiling or laughing out loud throughout."

 

“excellent delta bluesman” – Blues in Britain

 

“great guitar and spot on for style” – Blues in Britain

 

“Fabulous night; Best this year. Dave had a fantastic rapport with the audience and the whole group transmitted a convivial atmosphere. Well done and thanks for bringing them to Deal – Phil Healey (Audience member at Spooner’s Blues Club)

 

 

Milking The Blues

Friday 10th March 2017

 

Milking The Blues are our house band.

Made up with several experienced Blues performers who have all played in bands, trio's, duo's and solo for many years!

They can all mix and match and perform at the highest level making sure The Milkmaid has a strong support act on guest nights and to hold their own when they are showcased at various times throughout the year.

The line up will vary because of whose available on the night but rest assured they won't disappoint. Those of you who have attended our events over the past two months will testify to that. They meet weekly to rehearse. For the list of musicians who make up Milking the Blues go to the House Band button.

 

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