mike davies column february 2021

A regular collaborator with Sam Smith in whose band he plays and co-writer of several songs on his The Thrill of It All album, as well as writing for and performing with the likes of Bonnie Raitt, John Legend, Little Mix and Liam Payne, REUBEN JAMES has his own single,


Tunnel Vision (Rufio), a sultry neo-soul love ballad also featuring South London jazz-soul singer and guitarist Tom Misch and Elliott Skinner on background vocals prior to the release of a mixtape later this year.

haycock ep

Staying a soul vein, Birmingham-born BENJAMIN HAYCOCK blends hypnotic slow, percussive and fingerstyle folksy beats with rap passages on new single Restlessness, the song, a letter to his late father, he performed on The Voice and which prompted all four judges to turn round. The song also features on his recent self-released EP, Enigma’s Quay alongside four other tracks, the piano laced, fingerpicked jazzy scuffling Weight Of Iniquities, vocally soaring smoky ballad Gandy St, Infiltrated Mind which balances urgent rap with angelic vocals to a spare piano and strummed guitar backdrop and a home demo of the impassioned My Father.


Despite having ‘retired’ from music several years ago, having now retired from teaching, former Rumblefish/Low Art Thrill frontman and erstwhile member of Terry & Gerry, Jeremy Paige is reliving a misspent youth as part of Mid-Wales-based Nu Wave outfit THE ASTEROIDS alongside K West, Mike West and Julian West. Declaring that they “reject guitar solos and keyboards in favour of tunes, an appreciation of the past and a vision of the future”, they debut with the self-released 13-track Burn Your Maps. With just four tracks nudging past the two-minute mark, it’s a glorious throwback to the heady days of The Buzzcocks, The Revillos, Stiff Little Fingers, The Ramones, The Clash etc. Exploding out of the starting gate with the sneerily sung 49-second One Way System that sets out the social issues stall, they crank up the guitars to rampage through fuzz-tipped fireballs like Never Give Up, the modern technology-trashing Nothing Means A Thing To Me, a bass throbbing Selling Lies and the propulsive invective (“nothing ever fucking good enough for you”) Telephone, which also comes as a non-sweary (“flippin” radio version (cries of sell out!!).

This Town relatively slows the pace down for a shouty diatribe (“this town is a fucking drag… never spoke to me”), collapsing into squally guitar distortion at the end, ending with a Ramonsey You Lose, the siren-blaring notes of Shut Your Mouth and, at a marathon two and a half minutes, Black Heart. Less than half an hour perhaps, but crammed with noisy, jubilant – and perhaps not a little tongue in cheek – simple fiercely melodic punk hand grenades packed with all the fizz of an exploding sherbet fountain.

Following the recent singles, featuring the former Cohen Brothers rhytms section of bassist Brian Richards and drummer Dav Smaylen, Worcestershire’s KINGS OF THE QUARTER MILE now return with the full self-released album, Whatever It Takes Is What I’ve Got, opening with the desert twang strains of The Lie and its Dire Straits colours, fellow previous singles Louise and Springsteen also included. The other eight are steeped in that same mix of folk and heady late 60s American SoCal bluesy rock, the first new track being The Ticket with its wah wah guitar work and echoes of America, followed on by the choppy groove of Cross The Line with sterling guitar work evocative of the Allmans and their Southern peers and the slower, moodier paced Drunk featuring Simon Moth’s keys.

A flurry of slide guitar kicks off Fear Of The World before the drum thump arrives and a muscular and relentless heads down riff that would do Skynyrd proud, reining in for the slower balladeering Bluebird with Jenny Curtis’s backing harmonies reinforcing frontman Steve Counsell, Pete Juzl’s guitar work again soulful and rich. False Starts it’s a rockier country barroom dancefloor filler, the album rounding out with the near seven-minute Soldier Girl, fingerpicked intro giving way to a cocktail of Steely Dan, Crazy Horse and America, sporting guitar and piano solos, and, finally, the reverb slide guitar intro to Little Mountain with Curtis’s backing vocals again adding a lightness to Counsell’s earthier, bluesy soul. If you didn’t know they were from the Midlands, you’d be easily persuaded they were suckled in the bosom of the South alongside the likes of the Marshall Tucker Band, Barefoot Jerry and Gregg and Duane alongside whose work this can prouddly stand comparison.

roots-and-branches.com 2020