A Month Of The Very Best Roots Music In The North

Ron from TLR talks us through the April and May gigs at Caroline Social Club
April 16, 2023

21/04/23.  Friday.  John Martyn Project (ENG)  TICKETS/INFO

This diversity of different musical paths of the musicians recreates the many different aspects and eras of Martyn’s music and is delivered in a sensitive and poignant manner.

In the wake of a special one-off, sold-out show in 2018 at the Camden Jazz Café, the group decided to take the project on tour and the warm reception it has received has inspired them to continue. Since then they have regularly toured the UK and mainland Europe, as well as bringing John’s music back to the festival circuit. Each tour they continue to introduce more of John’s back catalogue from obscure live recordings to classic favourites, reworked and presented with rich harmonies and diverse instrumentation.

Blythe Pepino - By the end of 2016, she had released her major label debut as front-woman of Vaults, sung on that year’s John Lewis Christmas ad and toured with London Grammar. Not one to compromise her artistic vision, in early 2017 she turned her back on the major label existence to pursue her penchant for the strange and leftfield with new band, Mesadorm.

Kit Hawes is a virtuoso guitarist, composer, singer songwriter and mandolin enthusiast. Coming from a musical family, Kit was steeped in folk and roots music from the outset; learning from his parents and the many musicians who would pass through the farm. At age 14, after dropping out of school to pursue a career as a professional musician, Kith as played all over the world and has gained a reputation as top class instrumentalist working with a wide range of artists including Seth Lakeman, Cara Dillon and Yola.

Pete Josef has always been a soul singer at heart, but his Multi-instrumental skills have led him into some interesting situations. For several years he has recorded and performed live with Roni Size and Reprazent, and more recently with Rag ’n' Bone Man as well as being a touring artist in Kelis live band, gracing the stages of Glastonbury festival, Jools Holland and Fuji Rock. All whilst in this time working on his debut album ‘Colour’ which was featured at Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Awards.

Sam Brookes In 2011 his eponymous debut Album saw him named as Sunday Times ‘Breaking Act’ and his independently released follow up Kairos was picked as one of the best albums of 2014 by The Inde-pendent. Considerable streaming success and support slots for the likes of Willy Mason, Scott Matthews and Joan Armatrading have earned Sam a dedicated following and growing anticipation for his third album.

John Blakeley & Jon Short form a uniquely creative and original rhythm section who over the years have played together in variations incarnations with such artists as Yola, Sheelanagig and No Go Stop.

‘This is unlike anything I’ve heard before’ - Folk Radio

‘With his keening tenor vibrato sailing effortlessly into the upper register, there’s something of Tim Buckley about Sam Brookes’ - Andy Gill, The Independent

‘[Kit] plays with dazzling virtuosity’ - Ethan Johns

23/04/23. Sunday. Mark Wilkinson (AUS) plus support Mark Crotti  TICKETS/INFO

It’s long overdue, but after a busy 2022 recording and previewing new music across North America, including standout showcases at Americana Fest in Nashville, Australia’s Mark Wilkinson finally returns to Europe in 2023 to celebrate the release of his new EP 'Mariposa'.

This intimate and raw collection highlights Mark's dynamic and soulful delivery as he digs into the deeper questions of change, growth and identity.

Mark Says: "I'm so excited to be playing shows in Europe for the first time since 2019! These last few years have given rise to a lot of creative output and I can't wait to share some of the new music and reconnect with audiences over here. I really love digging back into my catalogue as well and trying to make each show a little bit different from the last."

Each live show promises to be an uplifting and captivating evening of music and storytelling, as Mark performs songs from his new EP alongside hidden gems and fan favourites from his diverse catalogue.

28/04/23. Friday. Joe Martin Band (ENG) TICKETS/INFO

Joe Martin is set to release his debut album ‘Empty Passenger Seat’ followed by a UK tour in the spring of 2023. Billed as a night of ‘New wave Americana, with stories and songs that will move the deepest parts of your soul’. Over the years, Joe has been bringing his vision of American Country/Folk to audiences all over the UK and Europe, this time he will be touring with his band, and will deliver a show not to be missed!

Joe explains; "I’ve been sat on these songs for a long time, but wanted to wait until I had the right collection of songs that would work together as an album. Empty Passenger Seat, written on tour at the end of 2021, was the song that tied the album and concept together. Being on the road, missing home, dreaming of what the future holds and what lies beyond the horizon that you’re traveling towards."

Joe Martin writes with a quality of empathy beyond his years. His descriptive lyrics capture stories of people and encounters picked up on the road. These tales of friends and strangers blend seamlessly with Joe’s own experiences into masterfully crafted songs that paint a picture with every verse, and the magic of his of his live performance lies is in his ability to connect a room of people of all ages through his lucid and powerful lyrical style. He is deservedly gaining attention on both sides of the Atlantic seeing him play shows around the UK, Europe and legendary venues in Nashville, Tennessee. He grew up listening to the greats and has been influenced by artists from James Taylor and Bob Dylan to more recent artists such as Jason Isbell and Kacey Musgraves which is evident his sound and lyrical style.

Joe is also currently producing a studio album with legendary musicians working with the likes of Steve Cropper, Graham Gouldman, Ralph McTell, Snake Davis, Mark Brzezicki and Bruce Foxton to name a few, as part of the project ‘A World United In Music'.

'The night I was at the Bluebird, a young Englishman with a rich voice named Joe Martin seemed primed for bigger things' - Jeremy Egner, New York Times

'Joe Martin is an artist who knows who he wants to be and has a voice of his own, a rare original glimmer in a sea of Nashville wannabes' - Six Shooter Country

'With a voice not unlike an English Lyle Lovett and a fistful of country-textured tunes Joe Martin is an undoubted cut above most similar songsmiths.' - God Is In The TV

30/04/23. Sunday. Chris Smither (USA) TICKETS/INFO

Born in Miami, during World War II, Chris Smither grew up in New Orleans where he first started playing music as a child. The son of a Tulane University professor, he was taught the rudiments of instrumentation by his uncle on his mother’s ukulele. “Uncle Howard,” Smither says, “showed me that if you knew three chords, you could playa lot of the songs you heard on the radio. And if you knew four chords, you could pretty much rule the world.” With that bit of knowledge under his belt, he was hooked. “I’d loved acoustic music – specifically the blues – ever since I first heard Lightnin’ Hopkins’ Blues In My Bottle album. I couldn’t believe the sound Hopkins got. At first I thought it was two guys playing guitar. My style, to a degree, came out of trying to imitate that sound I heard.”

In his early twenties, Smither turned his back on his anthropology studies and headed to Boston at the urging of legendary folk singer Eric von Schmidt. It was the mid-’60s and acoustic music thrived in the streets and coffeehouses there. Smither forged lifelong friendships with many musicians, including Bonnie Raitt who went on to record his songs, ‘Love You Like A Man’ and ‘I Feel the Same’. (Their friendship has endured as their career paths intertwined over the years.) What quickly evolved from his New Orleans and Cambridge musical experiences is his enduring, singular guitar sound – a beat-driven finger-picking, strongly influenced by the playing of Mississippi John Hurt and Lightnin’ Hopkins, layered over the ever-present backbeat of his rhythmic, tapping feet (always mic’d in performance).

‘Bathed in the flickering glow of passing headlights and neon bar signs, Smither’s roots are as blue as they come. There is plenty of misty Louisiana and Lightnin’ Hopkins in Smither’s weathered singing and unhurried picking. So fine.’Rolling Stone

‘Hundred Dollar Valentine is a thing of profound beauty; deep, sad, wise songs, allied to perfectly crafted arrangements, from a man who’s lived long enough in darkness to address the big, heavy questions with a lightness of touch.’ - Mojo

‘It was that rhythmic push-and-pull, that New Orleans sensibility that made Smither stand out.’Oxford American

‘With a weary, well-travelled voice and a serenely intricate finger-picking style, Mr. Smither turns the blues into songs that accept hard-won lessons and try to make peace with fate.’New York Times

05/05/23.  Sunday.  Fraser Anderson (SCO) The Live Room 11th Birthday Show TICKETS/INFO

Scottish born singer-songwriter Fraser Anderson returns to the Live Room with Bex Baxter (vocals) and John Parker (bass) to promote his new album 'All We Are', released on 17th March. Six years since his last release ‘Under the Cover of Lightness’ Fraser has used the time in-between to craft a set of songs about love, loss and the need for a sense of community.

With a voice up there with the folk greats of Nick Drake and John Martyn, Scottish troubadour Fraser Anderson is lauded by BBC 2’s Bob Harris & Zoe Ball and even praised by Chuck Berry. He’s appeared at some of Europe’s finest festivals including Celtic Connections, Reeperbahn and Zermatt, not to mention regular trips to the USA and Canada.

Over the years Fraser’s unwavering devotion has seen him raise three sons as a one-parent family and release four acclaimed albums. With his three sons grown, Fraser is now able to tour extensively. The new album marks a time of new opportunity with the prospect of broadening the impact of a lifetime’s body of work, to the wider world.

‘The best singer/songwriter I’ve heard in a very long time.’ - Howard Thompson, WPKN

‘Truly beautiful, let’s shout about this from the rooftops.’ - Bob Harris, BBC Radio 2

14/05/23. Sunday. Wanderland (ENG) TICKETS/INFO

Wanderland is a London and North Yorkshire based indie folk band featuring jazz pianist and producer Matt Robinson (Snowpoet) and vocalist Natalie Wildgoose, alongside guitarist Tara Cunningham, drummer Dave Hamblett (The Magic Lantern) and Bassist Tom McCredie.

Hailed by BBC Radio 1, BBC6 Music, BBC York and BBC Introducing as ‘One of the best records in 2021’ Their music has been described as ‘Combining layers of warm analogue synths, modern acoustic melodies and poetic, thought-provoking lyrics... this is folk music at its finest.’ - When The Horn Blows Magazine.

The two records ‘Songs,I’ and ‘Songs,II’ were both written and recorded in rural North Yorkshire in an old mill next to a waterfall. Some songs were written only hours before recording, capturing something deep and open-hearted, you can hear the rainy days and the star speckled nights.

The music at times is surreal and immediate, at others quiet and considered; raucous roadhouse guitar and distorted synths sit neatly alongside simple delicate ballads. 

Vocalist Natalie Wildgoose paints portraits of people and places with an impressionism that makes banal domestic scenes sound like distorted dreamscapes. 

This is not one to be missed!

‘Doesn’t it just make you dream…’ - Sian Eleri BBC Radio 1

‘Wonderfully Atmospheric’ - CLASH Magazine

19/05/23. Friday. Suntou Susso (GMB) TICKETS/INFO

Suntou Susso is amulti-instrumentalist: Kora player, percussionist, singer and composer from The Gambia, born a Griot in a 700-year-old tradition of the Kora – a harp-lute with 22 strings - unique to the Griots of the Mandinka people. Griots have a unique societal role as oral historians, transmitting and preserving a people's culture through the generations in song, music and poetry.

Suntou's family includes some of the world's most well-respected West African musicians. His musical abilities are outstanding, perhaps unique for his generation. An in-demand and charismatic performer, he attracted attention as soon as he arrived on the UK music scene.

Suntou has collaborated with, among others, celebrated jazz singer Sarah-Jane Morris; guitarist Tony Remy at Ronnie Scott’s; Ghazalaw – Indian/Welsh fusion project on BBC Radio 2, 3 and 6, Davide Mantovani, Kora and Modern Jazz fusion; and Opera singer Pumeza Matshikiza - performing on ITV's This Morning.

A key member of Norway-based 'Kristin Asbjornsen Trio', he co-composed and recorded a successful album, performing at jazz festivals around Europe. As an acknowledged master of the Kora, Suntou was invited to perform alongside world famous Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour at the O2 in 2018. An impressive moment for any young musician and a seal of approval from the legendary artist.

Here in the UK, he also performs classical Kora as a solo artist at sizable theatres with orchestral productions and across the festival circuit including WOMAD, Hay Festival, Beyond the Border and more.

In The Gambia, Suntou has a huge fan base and has released successful singles and videos. These continue to receive daily exposure on national TV and radio.

He also runs fun and engaging drumming and Kora workshops in schools, colleges and universities to pass this knowledge on to the next generation including Project African Experience for Black History Month.

21/05/23. Sunday. Sugaray Rayford (USA) TICKETS/INFO

A chance meeting in Memphis laid the groundwork for a unique musical partnership between soul-blues powerhouse Sugaray Rayford and producer, songwriter Eric Corne. Combining classic soul melodies with funky R & B grooves, raw blues power, and mashed up with modern sensibilities, the pair's first collaboration, Somebody Save Me, earned Rayford a 2020 Grammy nomination while later that year he took home Blues Music Awards for 'Soul Blues Male Artist' and 'B.B. King Entertainer of the Year.'

Last summer's adventurous single ‘Homemade Disaster’ took things further, landing on multiple retro soul and new blues playlists on Spotify, with Pop Matters declaring the track ‘will appeal to fans of Gary Clark Jr. and Chicano Batman.’

Sugaray Rayford returns with ‘In Too Deep’. Combining classic soul melodies with funky R&B grooves, raw blues power and mashed up with modern sensibilities, the album takes on issues, such as PTSD, civil rights and social justice. With vibrantly detailed arrangements tailored to showcase Rayford's deft portrayals and interpretations, In Too Deep is a poignant album that seeks to inspire and uplift.

At his core, Sugaray Rayford is agalvanizing uniter. His live shows are a party. Some conversations may be had,and some self-reflection may occur, but at the end of the day, people leavefeeling a sense of joy and togetherness.

‘Dude sings like Otis Redding and Muddy Waters yet can dance like James Brown.’ - Goldmine Magazine

‘Sugaray Rayford has the vocal chops to die for, but he's got something else - it's called star power and charisma. This guy's got "It."’ - Rock & Blues Muse

‘So here's a question for you folks. When was the last time you heard a singer announce, before a note has been played, that ‘We're gonna get butt naked about 10 songs in’? Not an everyday occurrence is it? But what this gig demonstrates is that Sugaray Rayford is not your everyday live performer. Oh no. He's a colossus.’ - Bluesenthused.com

‘In Too Deep is arguably a stronger album than (the Grammy nominated) Somebody Save Me, as fine as that was.’ - AllMusic (Editor's Choice)

26/05/23. Friday. Chastity Brown (USA) TICKETS/INFO

As the daughter of a blues musician, Chastity Brown was born with an innate ability to channel complex circumstances into beautiful, uplifting songs. But after surviving the isolation of the early pandemic and witnessing the global racial reckoning that manifested itself in the riots mere blocks from her South Minneapolis home, even she is surprised to hear the way her new album Sing To The Walls turned out.

“It’s a love album, in a way I didn’t plan on,” Chastity says.

Like so many artists who endured the uncertainty of the 2020 lockdown, Chastity’s instinct was to turn inward, at first out of self-preservation, and then because the new songs kept coming and coming. Since finishing her last album, 2017’s Silhouette Of Sirens, she estimates she’s written nearly 100 new songs, 10 of which found their way onto Sing To The Walls.

Sing To The Walls is a sonically expansive album; it mines the roots of Americana, folk, and soul music, but Chastity’s stories are delivered in a style that feels remarkably timely, modern, and forward-thinking. "I celebrate the emotional richness in the tradition, but in my music I’ve committed myself to moving forward and reflecting the experiences of those overlooked by tradition."

Between writing sessions she’s been vibing to chilled out, forward thinking artists like Leon Bridges, H.E.R., SZA, and Daniel Caesar, taking their cue to expand beyond genre and her folk/roots history to encompass her appreciation of all Black American musical art forms. “I also want to poke at what the blues is,” Chastity reflects. “It has a lot of stereotypes, like it’s mostly only played by blue-eyed white guys now. But what about Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey? I feel so closely connected, in a pure, undeviating lineage, to the heritage of being a Black, queer blues woman. I want to share this music with them, to say that I’ve listened, and I’ve done something new.”

“This album does not serve sorrow,” Chastity says bluntly. “And in that way, it’s my trying to emulate Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God - seeking personal spiritual fulfilment while rejecting expectations. What matters to me is my survival - and for my survival, it’s been necessary to try to embrace some joy.”

THE LIVE ROOM Saltaire is the very best all-round roots music club in Yorkshire