Powerful Grace: Ben Watt Band live at The Haunt Brighton 23 Oct 16

Ben Watt kicked off his current UK & Ireland tour in Brighton last night and he did so with both style and substance. Joined by Rex Horan on acoustic/electric bass and vocal harmonies, Makoto Sakamoto on drums and the guitar maestro Bernard Butler, Watt moved from electric to acoustic guitar onto Wurlizer electric piano while delivering a well sequenced set that was a satisfying balance of light and shade. The tunes were mostly from Watt’s last two albums (this year’s Fever Dream and 2014’s Hendra) but there were also some Everything But The Girl tracks as well as a few early solo works.

Asked how I’d describe Watt’s music I disinterestedly responded with the almost meaningless “alt-folk” cliché, but then I always opine if you can describe someone’s music with a short, slick label then it can’t be up to much. Ben’s own description is “folk-jazz and distorted, strings-bent rock” which is pretty accurate if not quite “EMO” in brevity.

Watt is an engaging host: inviting us to enjoy ourselves and frequently recounting the background context or genesis of the songs, which adds to the atmosphere. His vocals are pitch perfect and without ornament combining  with Butler’s cutting guitar to float and bob on the rhythm section’s lithe, dynamic pulse. It feels complete: the right mixture of the familiar and the fresh. The jazz influence is especially apparent in the older tunes and this provides an agreeable contrast to some of the more recent material which tends to rock more. Deep songs, dramatic guitars, pulsating bass and drums, played with energy and purpose – yes, we have some quality music here. Onstage at 8:30 and leaving us at 10:15 the band’s well measured set made for a very enjoyable Sunday night and a great start to the tour. Props to the engineer too, as the sound in the venue was pristine.

Something’s Gotta Give

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlZN-uw1Dr0 I wrote the song back in 2008, I remember well she was one of twins – the other song called “Nothing Feels The Same Without You” will be the next single. Those two songs have always been a pair and indeed, I ended up recording them in the same session last year. Anyway, I wrote them in 2008 while looking to come up with something a little slower than ” Counting The Days” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCZZGAU39gg or “Download Me” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyrSvfaasZk . 2009 was taken up with lots of things not least the birth of my daughter and the release of my debut solo album “21st Century Bluez”, the gigs I did that year were made up of material from that album. 2010 rolled around and I found myself back in Ireland and I rolled out “Something’s Gotta Give” for the first time at The Roundy in my hometown of Cork. That was a good gig and I recall, very clearly, the song going over well, which was good. My agent at the time, an American eccentric, mentioned that it was one of the highlights of the set.  The only other time I’ve played it live was in Sheebeen Chic, Dublin in the same year. So, I knew the song was strong but getting a finished recording was going to take longer than planned – life gets in the way.  I think I had about 90% recorded at home by 2012 but getting a vocal I was happy with as well, as being involved with other distractions meant that I didn’t bring it to my friend and producer/engineer/video director Raymond Beggan till mid 2013.

Having recorded various songs including “Heartache” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQyn5pT1JXk and “Counting The Days” with Ray he was someone I knew, could help me develop the track.  Ray came up with a great idea on the keys for the chorus and we worked up that great Van Halen-esque line to get it sounding really full. I played in some garagey drums and after a few mixes we had a loose but banging track. You can find the version we did here  https://soundcloud.com/barryhawkmusic/somethings-gotta-give-belmondo …. Loving the track but feeling that it needed a tighter mix I started looking for another set of ears enter James Darkin. James has worked with the biggest and the best – Kanye, Rhianna, Hozier…and he very quickly zeroed in on the strengths of the song. I redid the guitars, on a lovely black tele and we rearranged the background vocals. Sprinkling some magic dust on it, the track was finally ready to go.Image

Various

Wow! it’s been over a week since my last blog, full moon fever indeed!  Over the past week I’ve auditioned for a Rock n’Roll Roots band – first proper rehearsal tonight. Been deceived by the Dublin Bus digitally deceptive bus-stop read-out, and busked a few choons in town. I’ve also been looking at David McWilliams.com. Thought for the day: “Money should be a servant, not a master.”

Present, Past or Future? Where do you live?

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I’m reading a book The Time Paradox by Philip Zimbardo & John Boyd. It’s an engrossing read, full, as you might guess, of paradoxes. According to the book, I’m a present-hedonist. Living for the moment, in general, leads to being happier than being either past or future oriented, so it seems.  Thing is, sooner or later there’s some price to pay. Is it worth it? Where do you you live? Past, Present or Future? What’s it like there? Comments please!

Mindless Mondays and everyday!…Choose a human, it’s quicker

I’ve just come back from a short trip to the local supermarket, short, happily being the operative word as I chose to be served by a shop assistant – for whom there was no queue- instead of getting in line to use the checkout machines. What are we coming to when we’d rather wait in line to self-serve using a machine instead of interacting with another human and avoid the queuing? What indeed?!…Was it Marina and The Diamonds who sang “I am not a robot” ? unfortunately, I think she’s fast becoming a member of the minority.