Gabrielle Aplin

Gabrielle Aplin is the whipsmart teenage sensation with spirit in her voice and ability to bottle melodic lightning who, at 14, wrote her first song, Ghosts. At 17, she made it the title track of her first EP. At the same age, she set up her own label, Never Fade Records. Soon she had landed herself a booking agent and was plotting her own tours round the UK. By 18 she had released two further EPs and was running a profit making DIY artist’s enterprise – with plans already afoot to plough those profits back into other similarly inclined musicians she’d encountered along the way. At 19, Aplin decided she’d learnt what she needed to learn under her own steam and was ready to take things to the next level. From all the competing offers from established labels, she accepted the one from Parlophone.


They appreciated her – loved her – for what she was. And that’s what she wanted Channelling the classic songwriting her ‘totally hippie’ parents surrounded her with in childhood – Nick Drake, Bruce Springsteen,– Aplin has already crafted a selection of timeless but also of-the-moment anthems. Big songs, but songs that are intimate too. Home is an emotive, emotion tapping hit-in-waiting with a huge, choral sweep that was an iTunes Single Of The Week and currently has in excess of 2m YouTube views. It was written when this self- confessed ‘country bumpkin’ was pining for her village after relocating to one of London’s more, ah, underwhelming corners. November is named after her favourite month, references a ‘horrible fight’ she had with someone close to her, and finds kinship with her two favourite bands, Elbow and The National.


It’s big, rousing, and carousing. And, at this point, she would also like to point out that she started her YouTube career doing covers of Katy Perry, Coldplay, and, in a live set more recently, Carly Rae Jepsen. So she’s ‘pop’ too. Then there’s Ready To Question, a rollicking number that touches on sea-shanties, roots music and gospel, and was inspired by Aplin’s love of the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack.


First out of the blocks, though, is the instantly singalong Please Don’t Say You Love Me, which is released as a first single on Parlophone on February 11th. A few months back, Aplin had the bones of the song but not the heart. Then one night she was watching cult indie romcom ‘(500) Days Of Summer’. “I realised that film had the sentiment I’d been trying to reach. It was just a very realistic story. And then completing the song just happened. That’s the best way,” she beams. “That’s what happened with Home
as well. The songs that come naturally are always the best ones. If they’re difficult, when you play them later, you feel stressed – you feel how you felt when you wrote it. If I didn’t enjoy the writing sessions I won’t enjoy performing it.”


Gabrielle Aplin – experienced newcomer, a rare talent with the common touch – knows who she is and where she’s going. And she’s determined to take fans, old and new, with her. “I think people have been drawn to my honesty and my openness, I suppose, and the fact that I interact and engage.” She adds. “It’s not as if they’re listening to someone who’s not there. I’ll reply to fans on my website and through Twitter. I’m just very honest in terms of songwriting as well. And being honest has gotten me this far. So I’m gonna carry on doing that.”


A self-taught musician, Gabrielle already has firm ideas about what she wants. Songs she firmly believes in: “If you don’t like a song and it’s successful you’re gonna have to sing it for the rest of your life, and you’ll hate yourself! You have to be yourself.” An album producer who’ll give her songs the best possible sound: “People are quite surprised when I say that I’m working with a massive pop producer (Mike Spencer – Rudimental, Alex Clare, Rizzle Kicks, Emeli Sande), they think it might go a bit too far. But it’s really not – I wouldn’t let that happen – and he definitely gets it.”


Not disappointing the hordes of diverse fans who’ve blessed her songs with all those millions of YouTube views, bought over 60,000 copies of three indie EPs, helped sell out all six of her tours: “My song Home, for example, just grew, people were latching onto it. It seemed like it was a special song. Two years ago my fans all seemed to be 15 year old girls. But as my songs have grown, it’s definitely broadened out. Now it’s young girls who look up to me, people my age who can relate, then older people who reference me to things they related to when they were younger. It’s a great mix.”


Being certain that her new record label knew exactly who they were dealing with: “I made sure I had a clue about how it all worked. And no one could really say that I was wrong, ’cause I could prove it – I had the stats that literally proved my songs, tours and online presence worked. I wanted to learn about all that before I signed.”


Helping other young talents: “There are a lot of artists that I’ve found that I want to help – I want to put money into them, to develop them.” Gabrielle definitely knows what she doesn’t like. Compromise. Or, to be exact, not following her heart. “If I don’t like something, I try my best to make sure it doesn’t happen. There’s no point ’cause you’ve got to live with it.” Los Angeles. “I never want to be made to go out to LA for a writing trip. Although,” she grins, “ask me again in ten months and I’ll probably be like, ‘I love LA! It’s my favourite place in world!”


Being styled. Or more importantly, on not being over styled. “I am me – that’s it.” Gabrielle Aplin is a real girl with real talent, and a brand new star of tomorrow. Say hello to a breath of fresh air.


Blindfolds are John Gerrard O’Neill, Conor Jack Goldie, Joshua Campbell & Stuart Ivens. Blindfolds formed in the latter part 2011. To date they have had sets at Glasgow’s Art School, King Tuts, 02 Academy, GoNorth, Wickerman, Loopallu & front rooms. Their music married to rock n roll & blues, 1950′s vocal melodies with the raw attitude of the white stripes and 70’s punk sensibility. Pounding, thriving, and infectious rhythms.


“A set that exuded the kind of attitude and primal energy that you would have expected of band tearing up a New York basement in 1975.” (Bluesbunny.)


“Moody rockabilly channeling the Cramps and Link Wray with an authority that belies their youth.” (The Scotsman.)”


Of the many roots musicians traveling the world and spreading the early American music tradition, Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three are the next in line to make a significant impact on music enthusiasts everywhere. From St. Louis, Missouri, their creative mix of early jazz, string ragtime, country blues and western swing rings true and fine, making them among the most innovative of all the purists performing American roots music today. It’s wonderfully infectious, and all laid down in front of a big, big swingin’ beat. A lot of performers are content to play old material, reworking the tunes to give them new life or to stamp them with personal style. But this group, led by guitar-plucking troubadour Pokey LaFarge, achieves timelessness with original songs while honoring the legendary artists of yesterday through covered tunes. Accompanied by The South City Three, Pokey uses his booming voice as an instrument with an incredible range; one moment he shouts a line and the next he croons above his parlor guitar. Pokey’s extraordinary blend of raw talent and refined, idiosyncratic charm turns reviewers into poets as they attempt to label his one-of-a-kind sound.


Born in the heartland of America, Pokey has been hitching through the countryside and whisking off to faraway lands ever since he was a teenager. He is a perpetual traveler, constantly in motion while drawing musical inspiration from the heroes and misfits of yesterday, the long lost troubadours of country, the kings of swamp-drenched ragtime and all the legendary bluesmen of the Cotton Kingdom. Sharing that inspiration has been a mission of sorts for Pokey, making sure that people remember there’s more to music than just the sounds that manufactured pop stars are making today. Pokey is out to help listeners and live audiences rediscover an earlier time in America by bringing forth his special mix of music, featuring such acoustic instruments as the parlor guitar, guitjo, double bass, kazoo and harmonica. His sounds are truly original and modern, yet Pokey’s influences are apparent, as tinges of Blind Boy Fuller, Bob Wills and Jimmie Rodgers are easily recognizable.


Pokey has swiftly gained a large legion of fans ever since he self-released his debut album Marmalade back in 2007. Shortly after the album came out, he landed a main-stage slot at top annual roots music bash Pickathon in Portland, Oregon, where he was widely regarded as one of the standout acts of the event. In 2008, Pokey released his follow-up solo album, Beat, Move & Shake, with St. Louis-based label Big Muddy Records.


In 2009, Pokey began working with The South City Three, a trio made up of fellow St. Louis musicians Joey Glynn, Adam Hoskins and Ryan Koenig. With Glynn swinging and walking the upright bass, Hoskins displaying great versatility on his archtop guitar and Koenig getting down on harmonica, washboard and snare drum, Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three found a sweet spot. In 2009, Pokey and his crew hit the road and began to tour at a mind-spinning pace, quickly winning over crowds throughout America and Europe, making waves at such high profile festivals such as the Big Chill Festival (U.K.), the Tonder Festival (Denmark) and, most notably, the 2010 Newport Folk Music Festival (USA), where SPIN magazine called Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three “Best Discovery” and Bob Boilen of NPR called their performance “simply charming.”

In 2010, Pokey joined the South City Three on his third release, Riverboat Soul, with Takoma Park, Maryland-based label Free Dirt Records. The recording quickly took the American roots music scene by storm, reaching the top 5 in the Freeform American Roots Chart (FAR) and the top 10 in the Americana U.K. chart, while receiving critical acclaim by a host of influential music journalists. Terry Nolan of No Depression magazine may have described Pokey and his album best, as he mused that the songster “could be the birth of the next Bill Monroe creating such a fine mix of ragtime, jugband, blues, folk and country, he has found his own genre. For now, he’s solidly in the contemporary Americana genre, only because the music is hard to categorize. And I think Pokey LaFarge prefers it that way. Catch him on record and live before he leaves us all in his dust.”


Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three have no plans of stopping their mission of spreading the joy of early American music to the masses, exemplary in the accomplishments of their most successful year to date. 2011 has brought a new vinyl single release with Third Man Records (produced by Jack White), as well the critically acclaimed, full length album Middle of Everywhere, released in July. The group has continued to received praise from NPR Music, having the honor of recording for the popular NPR video series Tiny Desk Concert, all while playing nearly 200 live shows across the country, including a second appearance at the renowned Newport Folk Festival and a first time performance at the Americana Music Festival in Nashville, Tennessee.


To cap off their successful year, Pokey Lafarge and the South City Three rang in 2012 while appearing alongside such musical forces as Cyndi Lauper, James Morrison and Aloe Blaac on the annual BBC Two New Year’s Eve special “Hootenanny”, hosted by legendary U.K. musician and television personality Jools Holland. With another European tour in the works this Spring, and plans for a North American tour of music festivals this Summer and Fall, 2012 is sure to be another huge year for the group. Look for Pokey and his crew to continue their rise as premier tradition-bearers, musicians, songwriters and entertainers.

Toot’s & The Maytals

Toots and the Maytals, originally called simply The Maytals, are considered legends of ska and reggae music. Their sound is a unique, original combination of gospel, ska, soul, reggae and rock. Frederick “Toots” Hibbert, the leader of the group, was born in May Pen in the Parish of Clarendon, Jamaica. He was the youngest of seven children. He grew up singing gospel music in a church choir, but moved to Kingston in 1961 at the tender age of sixteen.


In Kingston, Hibbert met Henry “Raleigh” Gordon and Nathaniel “Jerry” McCarthy, forming a group whose early recordings were attributed to “The Flames” and, possibly, “The Vikings”. Having renamed the group the Maytals, the vocal trio recorded their first album, “Never Grow Old – presenting the Maytals”, for producer Clement “Coxsone” Dodd at Studio One in 1962-63. With musical backing from Dodd’s house band, the legendary Skatalites, the Maytals’ close-harmony gospel singing ensured instant success for the 1964 release, overshadowing Dodd’s other up-and-coming gospel trio, The Wailers. The original album augmented by studio out-takes from the Studio One sessions was re-released by Heartbeat/Rounder Records in 1997, and is essential listening for Maytals and Skatalites fans.


After staying at Studio One for about two years, the group moved on to do sessions for Prince Buster (released in 1974) before recording their second album produced by Byron Lee in 1965 . However, the band’s musical career was rudely interrupted in late 1966 when Hibbert was arrested and imprisoned on drugs possession charges.
Following Hibbert’s release from jail towards the end of 1967, the band officially changed their name to Toots and the Maytals and began working with Chinese-Jamaican producer Leslie Kong, a collaboration which produced three classic albums and a string of hits throughout the late sixties and early seventies – “Do the Reggay”, a 1968 single widely credited with coining the word reggae, “Pressure Drop”, “54-46 was my number” and “Monkey Man”, the group’s first international hit in 1970 . The group was featured in one of reggae’s greatest breakthrough events – The Harder They Come, the 1972 film and soundtrack starring Jimmy Cliff, named as one of Vanity Fair’s Top 10 Best Soundtracks of all time.


Following Kong’s death in 1971, the group continued to record with Kong’s former sound engineer, Warwick Lyn; produced by Lyn and Chris Blackwell of Island Records, the group released three best-selling albums, and enjoyed international hits with Funky Kingston in 1973 and Reggae Got Soul in 1976.


Toots and the Maytals’ compositions would be given a second airing in 1978-80 during the reggae-punk and ska revival period in the UK, when The Specials included “Monkey Man” on their 1979 debut album and The Clash produced their version of “Pressure Drop”. Having toured throughout the world for many years, Toots and the Maytals disbanded in the early 1980s, but reformed in the early 90s to continue touring and recording successfully. Sublime recorded cover versions of some Maytals songs in the 1990s as well.


The band recently won the 2005 Grammy award for best reggae album True Love, an album consisting of re-recorded versions of their classics alongside popular and legendary musicians such as Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton, and Keith Richards, as well as popular artists today such as No Doubt, Ben Harper, The Roots, and Shaggy.


Toots and the Maytals remains a relevant influence on today’s global music scene with artists from Amy Winehouse to Sublime re-recording classic tracks. Toots recieved another Grammy nomination for his 2008 release “Light Your Light. In recent years Toots has toured with The Rolling Stones, Dave Matthews, Sheryl Crow and Los Lonely Boys.


Always recording when not touring “Flip & Twist” will be release on 4/20/10 on Toot’s own D & F Music label. Look for Toots on the road spring and fall in the US and summer in Europe.

Jake Bugg